“Why not us?”
It’s a sentiment that’s often been heard from MLS fans in the age of the Designated Player. Since the DP rule was implemented in 2007, it’s created a bit of a haves and have nots scenario in MLS – not necessarily in the trophy case, but in the big name impressive European-pedigree player department.
From David Beckham, Thierry Henry and Robbie Keane to Juan Pablo Angel, Fredrik Ljungberg and even Danny Koevermans, the DP rule has brought players with top European pedigrees to a select few teams throughout the league. Still, others have found equally effective ways to use the salary cap exception by bringing in or retaining both promising young players and experienced proven talent from the Americas such as Fredy Montero, Javier Morales, David Ferreira, Cuauhtémoc Blanco and Guillermo Barros Schelotto.
The New England Revolution haven’t been one of those teams, though they are certainly not alone. The influx of talent has left fans throughout the league – and in New England – watching rival clubs pick up expensive, proven talent and wondering, “why not us?”
Sure, the Revs made an attempt – once. Last year the club brought in promising, but still very much unproven, 22-year-old Argentine striker Milton Caraglio on loan – in a situation that was almost guaranteed to be unsuccessful in the long term. Caraglio, who had been shelved for over a year due to injury, didn’t arrive until August and appeared to be just rounding into form and fitness by the time the season was over. His three goals and two assists in 12 matches weren’t enough for the Revs to justify whatever his transfer fee was, begging the question how much more could’ve been expected from a player in that situation with the limited chances the team was creating.
But, now, the Revs addition of striker Jerry Bengtson should be different. The Honduran international led the Honduras Liga Nacional de Fútbol in scoring with C.D.S. Vida in the 2009-2010 Clausura and 2010-2011 Apertura campaigns with 13 and 12 goals, respectively. He then switched clubs to C.D. Motagua where he led the league again with 15 goals in the 2010-2011 Clausura, and was second with nine goals in the 2011-2012 Apertura. Though a disappointing 2011-2012 Clausura saw him score just two goals, it may be why Motagua made him available – and at a price the Revs were willing to play.
Despite the recent disappointment, those numbers give Bengtson something Caraglio never had and something that happens to be pretty important for a forward: a proven goal scoring record. They also made Bengtson a wanted target for other clubs – something Caraglio no longer appeared to be by the time the Revs got him.
In fact, the 25-year-old was wanted by at least one Revs division rival, the Houston Dynamo, according to a tweet from Houston Chronicle sportswriter Jose de Jesus Ortiz.
If NE had not signed Bengtson, Dynamo would have pounced on Honduran. NE filed discovery claim on star b4 Dynamo, who really wanted him.
— Jose de Jesus Ortiz (@OrtizKicks) July 2, 2012
Those Dynamo just happen to be the reigning Eastern Conference Champions and sit five points above the Revs in the final Eastern Conference playoff spot. With a scoring record worse than the Revs, Houston certainly could’ve used the help.
And, the Dynamo are no strangers to DPs. The club landed much heralded Mexican striker Luis Ángel Landín in 2009, though he proved to be a bust, and just recently signed midfielder Oscar Boniek García, another Honduran international, both as Designated Players. Yet, it was the Revs who came out on top in the chase for Bengtson.
Now, the Revs will be relying on Bengtson – at least after he gets back from Olympic duty in London as one of Honduras’ three overage players – to score the goals that help close the gap and eventually overtake the Dynamo.
If that happens, for the first time in the DP era it will be the Revs rivals – and not the Revs – wondering what could’ve been and, yes, “why not us?” Of course, if it’s Bengtson who leads the Revs back to the postseason at the expense of the Dynamo – a team that’s twice defeated the Revs in the MLS Cup final – that double victory over their conference rivals will be all the sweeter.