Jon Bell took a picture of his jersey before the New England Revolution’s preseason opener against the LA Galaxy. He wanted to remember the night he made his Revolution debut, especially since the path to that moment wasn’t traditional.
Bell didn’t take part in the MLS Combine and was ultimately cut by the team that drafted him. He found a home with the Revolution’s second team but signed just eleven days before the start of the USL League One season. Oh, and the natural left back was expected to be a starting center back.
Bell rolled with all of this, understanding that the path to success is different for everyone. He’s now with the Revolution first team, hoping to be a permanent member of Bruce Arena’s gameday 20.
“I really wanted this to happen for me and I didn’t care how it was going to be,” Bell told The Bent Musket on Mar. 28. “I was given this path where I had to go down before I go back up. When you have a strong passion for something, you’ll go to any length just to achieve that goal.”
Bell now confidently calls himself a center back, a position he’s played in three preseason games. He most recently contributed 84 minutes against an LAFC team that featured Carlos Vela and Diego Rossi. The 23-year-old performed well, earning praise from goalkeeper Matt Turner.
“I think he played excellently today,” Turner stated after the game. “He was calm on the ball under pressure, and that’s not an easy attacking team to play against, and he made it look pretty easy, so I was happy for him to go out there.”
Bell understands that he still has a lot to prove. Andrew Farrell and Henry Kessler are the incumbent starters with AJ DeLaGarza and Collin Verfurth providing additional competition. Even making the gameday 20 will be difficult this year, but Bell is ready to do whatever it takes.
“You can’t just get a spot, you have to earn it,” Bell said. “The same way that I was able to earn a spot on the first team, I have to earn a spot on the 20-man roster. If I have to do it by playing with Revs II then I’m up to the challenge.”
A big part of getting better is soaking up the knowledge of those around him. Bell regularly seeks advice from Farrell and DeLaGarza, who have helped him become more decisive on the field.
Bell also understands that growth is only achieved when a player has the right mindset. As a reminder of who he wants to be, Bell chose to wear the number 23 this year, a switch from last year’s 70. Bell has worn 23 in the past as a homage to Michael Jordan, Lebron James, and David Beckham.
“To me, 23 isn’t just a number,” Bell explained. “When I wear that number on my back, it’s part of who I want to be looked at as a player. A player who always has a high mentality on the field and always works hard.”
With an attitude like that, it’s easy to understand why Bell has already become a fan favorite. Many fans used #AnnounceJonBell on Twitter to encourage the front office to sign the defender. The humorous tweets and memes were seen by Bell and his family. Their favorite reimagined Elf on the Shelf as Bell on a Shell.
This support is motivating for Bell as he looks to continue on his path.
“A lot of my family and friends were showing me the tweets and memes,” Bell said. “We were all just laughing about it and having a good time. It was really awesome to see that type of support and them wanting me to get signed for the first time. I just used that as motivation to make it happen.”