New England Soccer Today

On the Right Path

The Revolution added Honduran forward Jerry Bengtson on Thursday in the hopes of bolstering its attack. Bengtson will occupy the team’s second designated player spot. (Photo: New England Revolution)

The New England Revolution have been behind the ball on signing Designated Players far too often over the years — at least, according to fans yearning for a big-name, big-market player. Since the Designated Player Rule was instituted in 2007, has taken a more subtle and long-term approach when looking at DP signings.

Instead of following the Los Angeles Galaxy model — sign aging players with big names and even bigger wage demands — the Revolution have tried to sign younger players with bright futures, or complimentary players the team sorely needed to keep its core intact.

The acquisition of Honduran international forward Jerry Bengtson, 25, shows the team is looking to build a core of players that can play together for years to come and will have time to prove the worth of the lavish DP contract. Bengtson is a proven goalscorer in Honduras and one of the international team’s top forwards. This is a match made in heaven for a team still looking for a dynamic player and consistent goalscorer looking to showcase his skills on a bigger stage than the one in his home country.

Bengtson led the Honduran top-flight the previous three seasons in goals — the 2010 Clausura, the 2011 Apertura and the 2011 Clausura– and should see his goalscoring translate to Major League Soccer with a pipeline of creative players around him that includes Benny Feilhaber, Lee Nguyen, Saer Sene and Kelyn Rowe. With the addition of Bengtson, the Revolution acquired a potent scorer that should fit into the team’s system and contribute right away when he receives his visa and international transfer certificate.

The signing of a player like Bengtson proves that New England has embraced the DP tag and has a plan for how to use the league’s exception to the salary cap rule, which allows teams to sign in-demand players for more money without taking a huge salary cap hit. It’s just utilized it in a different way: the front office wants player who can contribute right away and change the culture rather than players who just bring their name with them.

Last year, the team acquired its first DP on loan, Argentine striker Milton Caraglio, and signed Shalrie Joseph to a DP contract when the deal he signed in 2007 expired at the end of last season. Despite showing promise as a true number 9 that could hold up play and score goals when given decent service, the 22-year-old center forward wasn’t retained by the Revolution. Even so, signing Caraglio showed the team looking at the DP rule as a way to bolster the squad with younger talent to give the team a boost in the immediate and near future rather than signing a player like Robbie Keane whose best years are behind him.

The signing of Joseph was different. It was a necessity for New England. He is the face of the franchise and will be for years to come, until someone else comes along and finally embraces that role. The front office needed to keep its prized asset for a few more years until it can find someone else to inherit the captain’s arm band and become the leader of the team.

But the signing of Bengtson reaffirms that New England’s front office sees goal-scoring as a priority that is expensive on the world-market, which it is, and that acquiring a player who can score goals and has proven it in a league of similar caliber to MLS is worth the extra expense. He is the type of player that won’t sell boxes and boxes of jerseys and merchandise before he suits up, but he’s a player with promise and ability, especially in front of goal, where it matters most. He’s only 25 and has plenty of time to continue to grow.

More than likely, though, the Revolution will have to wait to see its new prized asset on the field. Bengtson will suit up for the Honduran National Team at the Summer Olympics in London later this month as one of the team’s three over age players. And fingers will be crossed that he doesn’t get injured before he ever gets a chance to make an impact.

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