New England Soccer Today

Five Questions: Revolution at Whitecaps

Revolution defender A.J. Soares battles with Whitecaps forward Omar Salgado in last year's clash, which Soares and his teammates won 4-1. (Photo: Tony Biscaia/

Revolution defender A.J. Soares battles with Whitecaps forward Omar Salgado in last year’s clash, which Soares and his teammates won 4-1. (Photo: Tony Biscaia/

Jerry Bengtson…International Man of Mystery?

On Friday, news leaked that the Revolution forward had abandoned the Honduras National Team in the midst of World Cup Qualifying. The reported reason for his departure was his unhappiness with the decision of Luis Fernando Suárez to drop him from the starting XI.

Of course, we haven’t learned many of the facts just yet. The story is still relatively fresh, and that pesky language barrier is still there.

But that hasn’t stemmed some pretty strong opinions voiced in response to the news. Some have said that Bengtson‘s departure is the hallmark of a primadonna. A crybaby. A player who puts himself before his teammates. A player who abandons his National Team – his country – in the midst of its campaign to qualify for the greatest tournament on the planet. “Traitor” is probably the nicest thing he’s been called in the last 48 hours.

That being said, it’s hard to gauge where Bengtson‘s mind and heart were when he abruptly left the team hotel. We do not know what led to him being dropped, nor do we know why he felt justified in making such a drastic decision.

But what we do know is this: Bengtson is back with the Revolution. He re-joined them on Thursday, and trained with the club during the morning session.

What we can also gather from the past 48 hours is this: He no longer has the National Team forum to rediscover his goalscoring prowess. He no longer has World Cup Qualifying to routinely duck out of spotlight when he struggles. He no longer has an alternative forum to boost his stock on the transfer market. In short, he has to figure it all out right here, in New England.

The safety net is gone. His premature return to the Revolution only signals one thing: right now, his only hope for redemption lies with his club, for his country is no longer an option. If he wants to return to the form that netted him a pair of Honduran league scoring titles, reclaiming that form in Foxborough might be his last recourse.

While Bengtson‘s sudden departure is bad news for Honduras, it might just be the best news for the Revolution, who now have a player on their hands who doesn’t want to be defined by the decision he made three days ago. A player who, for the first time since his arrival last July, might need them more than they need him.

With or without Bengston, the Revolution have a game to play against the Whitecaps on Saturday. And because of that, we’ve got five questions for you, our loyal readers, whom we would never abandon, whether it be World Cup Qualifying or mid-season league action.

1. Can the attack put last Saturday’s embarrassing performance behind them? They’ll have no choice. The way that the worst defense in the league kept one of the hottest was hard to swallow. Heaps credited D.C. as a good team, though we all know the truth. Agudelo said he was “pissed,” and he should’ve been after he was held to zero shots. Fagundez was a bit more diplomatic after the game, yet he couldn’t have been happy with the way D.C. laid the lumber down when he took it toward net. Fortunately for the named parties, Wednesday’s 4-2 Open Cup win put to rest many fears that the attack had been figured out. Granted, a number of the players on the field at Harvard weren’t getting bossed around by the D.C. defense four days earlier. But the fact that a second-choice front four outperformed their first-choice counterparts should motivate the latter to pick up their game against the Whitecaps. For, if Heaps is known for anything, it’s that he isn’t afraid to switch things up when something’s broken.

2. Which player from Wednesday’s Open Cup game is likely to earn a start? I’ll take Kelyn Rowe for a thousand, Alex. Unlike his first two-goal effort against the Rhinos on May 28, his latest came against what was essentially a first-team Red Bulls, and a player who’s found his scoring touch is a dangerous weapon. It wasn’t just goalscoring that was impressive. It was the way he took on a defenders, and the way he found space in the middle of the park and near the edge of the attack third. It was almost enough for Jay Heaps to negotiate a number change between him and Agudelo. Yes, Rowe looked like a true number 10 on Wednesday. He’s playing some of the best soccer of his short MLS career. And with a team that just coughed up three goals to the Sounders on tap, this could be the perfect time to unchain the dynamic Rowe.

3. If the attack finds itself in a rut, will it be smart enough to make the necessary adjustments? Agudelo didn’t hold back after the scoreless draw to D.C. last week, saying that a switch in style (going from a short, possession-style passing to playing direct) should’ve been employed. Given what the lowly United did to them, with that back line and a goalkeeper who’d been struggling all season, Agudelo might have been right. The fact is few teams can will themselves a goal if nothing is working, and at last check, the Revolution weren’t Bayern Munich. Interchanging spots is cute, and many times, it’s also been effective for the Revolution. But when the opposition is bumrushing your two primary attackers off the ball, and forcing your third option into a jump-in circle like he’s about to face a gang initiation, it might just be a good idea to try another idea or two. Like United, the Whitecaps defense isn’t anything special. Their documentary star center back remains shelved, and another defender – Andy O’Brien – is listed as out.  The Revolution must be ready to adapt and adjust. After all, they won’t have Ilija Stolica to bail them out this time around.

4. Is the Revolution’s shutout streak about to come to an end? As impressive as this 395-minute run has been, Saturday night could be the night in which it meets its demise. The Whitecaps come into the contest with nine goals in their last four, and have put up multiple-goal performances against the Galaxy, Red Bulls and Sounders. Camilo’s collected three in his last three, and Russell Teibert has done well to steer the attack north. Then, of course, there’s Nigel ReoCoker, Kenny Miller and Lee Young-Pyo. In short, this isn’t the six-goal D.C. attack, the Robbie Keane-less Galaxy, the one-dimensional Toronto offense, nor the emotional mess that was Dynamo. No, this is a club that, for all intents and purposes, has the guile and veteran savvy to punish a team more than once. They do it coldly, without second thoughts given to their opponents’ current form, nor feelings.

5. Conversely, can the Revolution snap the Whitecaps home unbeaten streak? Wednesday’s performance was an indication that, at any given moment, the Revolution attack can explode and make an opposing goalkeeper reconsider his profession. Yes, Open Cup play isn’t the same as league action, and BC Place isn’t Harvard. But go back four weeks ago, to a rainy Saturday night in Houston, and behold what this team did to an opponent that had won 36 of its last 37 at home. Yes, the Whitecaps aren’t the Dynamo, but they share one important thing in common: they don’t make it a habit of letting their guests leave with three points. To that end, the Revolution attack must match the efforts of their defense, and finish its chances. They cannot be like D.C. was in front of the net last week, especially with the chances that the Whitecaps are prone to concede. Should Fagundez and Agudelo find space, and Sene and Rowe get open looks, the only unbeaten streak that survives beyond Saturday night might be the Revolution’s.

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