Jon Bell’s first year as a professional hasn’t been easy.
An All-Northeast Region First Team player at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Bell was drafted 38th overall in the 2020 MLS Superdraft by the San Jose Earthquakes. However, his his stay in California came to a grinding halt when San Jose declined to offer him a contract after preseason. Within weeks of hearing his name called on draft day, the defender was back to square one.
In the face of adversity, Jon continued to grind. “I was back at home doing what I could to stay in shape,” he said in an interview with The Bent Musket.
Months later, a chance finally surfaced. Clint Peay, head coach of New England Revolution II, offered Bell a spot — but there was a twist.
Following the unplanned departure of a center back, Revs II was suddenly shorthanded at the heart of defense. And they called on Bell, a natural left-back, to plug this hole.
“It was a bit uncomfortable just because it’s not my natural position,” Bell said. “It goes back to me with what happened prior to being in New England... I just wanted to be able to get on the field and play. And if it meant I had to play out of my position, so be it.”
By the time Bell signed a contract with Revs II, the opening day of USL League One was just eleven days away. Eleven days to meet a coaching staff, develop bonds with teammates, adjust to a system, and learn a new position.
Fortunately, teammates came to aid, namely Collin Verfurth. A tried-and-true center back, Verfurth had recently signed a contract with the first team.
“Collin [Verfurth], you know, he’s dope,” Bell said. “When I came into the team, I asked him a lot of questions... and he was open to just helping me, giving me pointers and tips. He was like letting me know like ‘move this way’ or ‘step up with this line’ and stuff like that.”
Bell and Verfurth started the Revs II opening game together, a baptism of sorts for a tandem that’s evolved into a formidable partnership on the backline. Under the tutelage of head coach Clint Peay, Bell and Verfurth have started ten out of eleven games together, combining for nearly 2,000 minutes of game time.
“[Peay] offers me a lot of confidence,” Bell said. He wants us to have a killer mentality every time we step on that field. I always go out there wanting to play my most challenging for him; he gives off that energy of wanting you to play your best.”
Peay has successfully elicited the “killer mentality” out of Bell this season, who consistently uses his strength and speed to dominate the backline. But perhaps most impressive is Bell’s savviness in possession, frequently combining with the likes of Maciel and Angking to jumpstart attacks for the team. Currently, Bell ranks second in the USL League One in passes (607).
Not only has Bell focused on his personal development, but he’s also served as a role model for the younger figures on Revs II’s backline. Several Academy players have earned significant minutes for Revs II, including Colby Quinones, a seventeen-year-old left-back who has started nine straight games besides Bell. “I like Colby a lot,” Bell said. “He’s got that dog fight in him.”
In a year that’s thrown obstacles at Bell from every direction, the center back has stuck on the rollercoaster and overcome the hurdles in stride. Regardless of how Revs II finish on the league table, Bell’s rookie campaign will be worthy of applause. But he isn’t satisfied yet.
“Part of the blessing of being a part of an [MLS-affiliated] USL team is that opportunity to get up to the first team,” Bell said. “Every game I go out, it’s like a job interview for me to show Bruce and the guys up top my ability to play.” Bell noted that playing in MLS and Europe are two goals for his professional career.
If he continues on his current trajectory, the sky’s the limit for the center back, who should be in the running for Revs II player of the year when all is said and done.
Revolution II kicked off next on Saturday, October 3rd, against the Richmond Kickers. Game time is slated for 6:30 pm.