When the New York Red Bulls released their decidedly inexperienced starting lineup Saturday night ahead of the season opener against the Portland Timbers, it raised a few eyebrows. The biggest head scratcher was the start given to the Red Bull’s 17-year-old homegrown player, Ben Mines.
One person not concerned over the selection of Mines was head coach Jesse Marsch.
“It was an easy decision. I knew it, ” said Marsch in the post game press conference. “I knew it going into last week that Ben Mines was playing tonight; and, I was pretty confident that he was going to play well.”
Play well he did.
With the spotlight shining, Mines scored his first professional goal and showed a veterans poise throughout a strong 90 minute debut.
Ben Mines joined the Red Bulls Academy in 2015 to play with the U-16 team. Mines quickly made a name for himself in the academy and made 12 appearances for the New York Red Bulls II from 2016-2017 scoring a single goal.
After signing with the Red Bulls in January, Mines started to standout. During the Red Bull’s preseason camp in Florida, Mines scored three goals and showed a strong attacking sense with the ability to run at opposing defenses.
Marsch spoke after the match about how Mines had performed well in preseason, impressing captain Luis Robles.
“In our first two-week camp down in Tampa, Luis at the end of the camp said Ben Mines is the best player in camp in the first stretch, and that wasn’t like a gesture. It was true. He was the best player. He scored the most goals and he was the most dangerous, every day.”
Robles, the newly minted Red Bulls captain, echoed these sentiments as well.
“We played three games during our first trip to Florida,” said Robles after the match. “And he scored three goals. And for him to come in again and to score on his debut is incredible.”
Mines relished the opportunity afforded him, and remained humble about his accomplishments.
“It’s incredible you know,” said Mines. “Just coming up through this amazing system, watching the stands, watching these guys play. Finally getting to be in the moment, it’s incredible.”
On scoring his first goal, Mines echoed the eruption of the stands with raw emotion seemingly spilling from the young winger in celebration. His celebration was that of making a phone call, something that he explained was for his mother after the match.
“My mom and dad were both here tonight. My celebration is actually for my mom. She always calls me before every game, texts, or whatever. She’s always been there for me and I’m truly grateful.”
The future looks bright for young Ben Mines, and the growing list of former USL and academy players is a bright spot for Jesse Marsch in his fourth year with the team. The feeling that the team is moving, and continuing to move in the right direction is something Marsch is relishing.
“There’s a system here,” the coach said. “It’s a factory. It’s a player and a football factory, and we believe wholeheartedly, there’s no one in this club who doesn’t believe in the way we do things, and our identity, and it actually makes life easy for everyone.
“But this is not just happening now. This has been happening for three-plus years and it’s just a progression. You know, this club will be set up for years to come, no question. Whoever gets my job next is going to continue all the work that’s been done and continue to push this thing further and further.”