Brazil was preserving a two-goal lead late in their World Cup match against Serbia on Wednesday when Gabriel Jesus received the ball while hugging the touchline with two then three defenders converging. Jesus, through a series of deceptive spins and masterful ball control, maintained possession. The crescendo from the spectators at the Otkrytie Arena in Moscow indicated their delight with the flair of the Manchester City striker.
That volume of anticipation is not perceptible at Yankee Stadium when Jo Inge Berget is on the ball. Moreover, the New York City FC supporters wonder how the gawky Norwegian fits into the scheme of City’s principles to present the “beautiful game” to Major League Soccer – especially now with former Manchester City assistant Domè Torrent in charge of the side.
“As a fan you like to see goals and dribbles and stuff like that and you may not notice all the dirty work,” Berget said after Tuesday’s training session. “The working and running part of the game is huge for me – it’s part of my game.”
If Berget is not going to provide panache, then surely supporters assume he will instead deliver a reliable finishing touch. He led Malmö FF with 10 goals en route to a second consecutive championship in the Swedish top tier last season. His compensation in year one with NYCFC is just shy of $817,000 trailing only David Villa and Maxi Moralez for salary honors.
Berget trusts that his game-deciding brace against Toronto FC on Sunday will lift the doubt from supporters who have often compared the 6-1 Scandinavian to the failed project named Adam Nemec – a 6-3 Slovakian striker whose goose egg total of goals was met with sarcasm and anger in the expansion 2015 season.
Prior to Sunday, Berget had managed just one goal in 12 starts with memorable miscues including a walk-in attempt that could have earned his side three points in the cauldron at Atlanta United.
“For me, I’ve been in the game for awhile so I knew it was going to come,” the 27-year old Berget said.
His experience includes a pair of UEFA Champions League tallies for Malmö FF against his former club Celtic at the famed Parkhead in Glasgow, Scotland.
“The most important thing is to get to those chances and be in the right positions for them.”
Cue the skeptical public that fail to be satisfied with proper location – they desire the finished product. What changed against the defending league champions on Sunday?
“They went in,” Berget said with a chuckle. “It’s more about continuing to do what you’re doing and you know the goals eventually are going to come.”
Berget was 17 when he inked his first professional contract with Lyn in Norway. Along the way he registered 17 goals in 63 matches at Molde in Norway’s premier division and totaled 25 goals in 77 games with Malmö FF.
“I know it’s going to go up and down of course you always wanted it to go up and up and up but that’s not the case always,” Berget said. “At times it’s a bit frustrating when you miss and miss and miss that’s just the way it is – eventually it has to turn around and hopefully that’s the case now.”
Under former coach Patrick Vieira he became a fixture in the starting XI and Berget rewarded Torrent’s decision to place him up top at the start of the TFC match.
“The teammates and the coaches they all know what work you put in,” Berget said. “Of course it’s always nice to top that with some goals. Hopefully, they are going to come now.”