Some footballers are seemingly born with an ability to change games. Whether with a perfectly timed pass, a smart piece of anticipation to avert danger, or a surprising shot from an almost impossible angle, these are players who consistently produce moments of quality when it matters most.
Honduran international striker Jerry Bengtson is one such player, with his goals often proving crucial. The 26-year-old scored against Spain at the Men's Olympic Football Tournament London 2012 to take Honduras past the group stage for the very first time. And his recent goal against Mexico at the San Pedro Sula, in the final round of CONCACAF qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™, pulled Los Catrachos level and helped them salvage an unlikely 2-2 draw.
With Honduras preparing for three hugely important qualifiers against Costa Rica, Jamaica and USA, FIFA.com spoke exclusively with Bengtson, one of the players who could hold the key to the Central American side's hopes of reaching Brazil 2014.
A career on the rise
Bengtson made his professional debut in 2007 for Vida, for whom he enjoyed two strong seasons before finishing top of the Honduran league's scoring charts in 2009/10. His fine performances earned him a move to Motagua in 2010, as well as a first senior appearance for the Honduran national team.
Despite his young age, Bengtson quickly won the approval of the Honduran fans. "I was playing for Vida when, one day, a woman told me her son had died," he said. "She gave me his boots because she wanted me to use them. I only wore them in a couple of matches, but I've kept them as a memento more than anything, and for the importance of what they represent."
Bengtson's rise continued in 2012, when he signed for MLS side New England Revolution and realised his dream of playing outside his homeland. "It means a lot because they're my first team since I left Honduras," said the tall striker, who admits he has taken time to settle at his new club. "The process of adapting has not gone very well. There are lots of changes I've had to adjust to here, but I think I'm gradually getting there. I've still got a long way to go."
The same could be said for Honduras in their quest for a place at Brazil 2014. Los Catrachos are fourth with four points in the CONCACAF preliminary tournament, but a good return from their next three qualifiers could put them in with a strong chance of reaching a world finals for the third time.
"We're training very well," said Bengtson. "We're going to work very hard, knowing we have three difficult games but also a great group of players. We've got a good team that will go out to get as close to the maximum nine points as possible."
USA are the most formidable of Honduras's upcoming opponents, although the Stars and Stripes’ qualifying campaign has not started as well as they might have hoped. Bengtson, however, remains wary of their threat, and is refusing to let overconfidence creep in. "It's not an advantage," he explained. "They have started badly but this will make them even more dangerous, as they need the points. We all know what USA are capable of, but the same goes for Mexico and all the others. None of them are easy opponents."
Indeed, while USA are the obvious danger, every team in the section is determined to secure a place at Brazil 2014. "The qualifying tournament has been very hard-fought," said Bengtson. "I think all the teams are strong. Those who were seen as small teams have improved a great deal and are doing well. The games are very keenly contested, and nobody gives anything away. We all want to be at the World Cup."
The level of competition only heightens Bengtson's motivation, and he has unwavering belief in his side's ability to deliver. "We've got a great national team," he said. "Our unity is something that defines us, sets us apart and serves us."
"We've got youth and experience, and we're all pulling in the same direction," he added. "We're confident we've got everything it will take to reach Brazil 2014, and we're going to fight for it."