Jon Bell was on his way to the New England Revolution’s training facility last Friday when he got a surprise call. He doesn’t usually pick up calls from unknown numbers, but this one came from St. Louis, MO on the eve of the Expansion Draft.
Bell explained, “It didn’t even cross my mind as I would come up as a thought to get picked.” But sure enough, the St. Louis representative said that he was going to be one of the club’s five selections.
“Honestly, last Friday when I heard the news, at first I was kind of sad because I was leaving Boston,” Bell told The Bent Musket. “This was my first professional team, I know everyone here, and I’m comfortable here.
“Speaking with my family, my friends–and I talked to some of my teammates beforehand about it–and they were all really happy for me. That kind of made me feel even better, but also knowing and understanding that it’s a good opportunity for myself.”
With the Revs only able to protect 12 players, Bell was made available to St. Louis along with 15 other members of New England’s roster. He was unbothered by this though and only learned about it when one of his friends told him.
Bell said that he didn’t really have a conversation with the Revs coaching staff about why he was unprotected but they did express remorse about losing the defender.
“There was no heads up or anything like that pertaining to me being unprotected,” Bell said. “Going in and speaking with the staff after it all happened, it was equal. I was sad to leave and the coaching staff and facility guys felt the same way.”
Saying goodbye is never easy and this is especially true for Bell, who is leaving a locker room that is filled with players who “all got along, regardless of age.” He regularly spent time with his teammates away from the field, which “makes the bond and chemistry in the team really great.”
Bell will also miss the fans. He has so many positive memories of being greeted outside of Gillette Stadium after games. He noted that the supporters continued to exhibit passion during the 2022 season despite the team struggling in the standings.
“I’m definitely going to miss the fans,” Bell said. “They always showed a lot of support, especially this season when it was really just a rollercoaster. It just shows that the fans care because they want their team to win and succeed.”
Despite feeling grief about leaving New England, Bell is excited about the opportunity ahead. He’s already had positive conversations with representatives from St. Louis. Bell said, “They like the style I play at center back and left back.”
The 25-year-old made 27 appearances (19 starts) for the Revs after joining the first team in 2021 as a graduate of Revs II. He was largely an understudy to Andrew Farrell and Henry Kessler, but made the most of his minutes. St. Louis has been watching him “closely the last couple of months,” so picking him is a vote of confidence about how he plays.
“To know that all those times, even though I had limited minutes, I made a big enough of a difference to catch somebody’s eye [is great],” Bell said. “I understand and I know that it’s a really great opportunity for myself and it’s going to be on me to embrace it and take that challenge head-on.”
Bell is ready to prove himself in a new environment. On Wednesday, St. Louis christened CITYPARK, a 22,500-seat soccer-specific stadium in the heart of the city. The atmosphere was electric despite St. Louis II losing 3-0 to Bayer 04 Leverkusen.
“It’s going to be great,” Bell said. “Speaking to the sporting director and coach there, they told me that St. Louis is a big soccer city. I already know that the first game there, the fans section is going to be crazy and the energy in there is going to be crazy. It’s going to be awesome to be in that environment and soak it all in.”
Bell’s time in New England has come to an end, but there’s so much he’ll take with him. For one, he’ll always remember scoring his first professional goal against New York City FC. This was his favorite with the club because he had so many friends and family in attendance. He kept the ball and jersey from that night as mementos.
He will also carry with him valuable lessons from Bruce Arena as he learned to play center back. Bell, who declined to do an Arena impression, said one tip that has stayed with him is that he shouldn’t stand in space because “space doesn’t defend, you defend.”
Bell will anxiously wait to see if St. Louis and New England face each other in 2023. The defender told The Bent Musket that he isn’t exactly ready for a reunion clash, jokingly saying, “I hope when the schedule comes out, I don’t play [the Revs], I’ll be honest.”
Three years ago, Bell faced an uncertain future after being released by the San Jose Earthquakes, but he became a trusted figure within the Revs organization. He now faces uncertainty again, and Bell is ready to face it head-on.
“I think it’s going to be a great experience,” Bell said about joining an expansion club. “I’ve never been in this position before so everything that’s going to be coming at me is going to be new. They just realized a jersey and it looks dope. The stadium, the facility, everything looks amazing. It’s going to be a great experience.”