FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Jerry Bengtson knew he was in for a bit of a ribbing when he returned to the New England Revolution locker room on Friday morning.
Two days after Bengtson scored the game-winning goal to lift Honduras to a critical victory over the United States, many of his American teammates – in particular goalkeeper Matt Reis – took the opportunity to deliver a few good-natured jabs at the 25-year-old forward.
“I came in the locker room and there were a couple jokes here and there, but at the same time – as my teammates – they were happy that I scored the winning goal,” Bengtson said through a translator. “I was happy with the way everyone interacted when I walked into the locker room.”
Bengtson participated in his first preseason training session with the Revs on Friday and will have another in Foxborough on Monday morning before the club departs for a two-week trip to Tucson, Ariz., where they’ll play four matches against MLS competition. The setting will provide a perfect opportunity for Bengtson to mesh with his teammates after frequent national team duty forced a sporadic and abbreviated 2012 campaign.
“There’s no mistake, last year he scored a lot of goals for Honduras and only two for us,” head coach Jay Heaps said of Bengtson. “This is going to be the longest extended period of time that we’ve had him with our group. That’s important. It’s not just on the field. It’s off the field, eating with the guys, hanging with the guys. Jerry fits in really well.”
It’s likely Bengtson will next be summoned to Honduras for World Cup Qualifiers against Mexico (March 22) and Panama (March 26), which are now six weeks away. In that time, Bengtson aims to work as hard as possible to learn the tendencies of his teammates and preferred playing style of Heaps.
“Little by little, it’s going to come back,” Bengtson said. “Going [to Tucson] and being with the team, that’s going to help because I haven’t been here a lot. Hopefully these couple of weeks being away with the team will help me be together with my teammates and learn what the coach wants from the team.”
Although he won’t have a full preseason with the Revolution, Bengtson believes even an abbreviated preseason will be a massive boost after arriving in July of last year. Bengtson struggled to adapt to a new team, league and culture on the fly while bouncing back and forth between club and national team in 2012, but he’s very much looking forward to a fresh start in 2013.
“This year, it’s from zero,” Bengtson said. “Now I’m in with the team. That helps a lot, especially for me, knowing my teammates. I’m going to work really hard and hopefully everything goes well for the home team, then we’ll go from there.”