Ben Mines celebrates his first pro goal by “calling” his mother.” (Vincent Carchietta/USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
HARRISON, N.J. — Just in case he scored against the Portland Timbers in his MLS debut Saturday night, Ben Mines wanted to practice his goal celebration.
Now, that’s a pretty bold move by a 17-year-old he hadn’t played one second in the league.
His roommates were out of the apartment, so the Ridgefield, Conn. native had plenty of time and room to try out a few moves.
“I had no clue as to what my first professional goal was going to be,” he said. “But I definitely just imagined myself scoring. Practicing my celebration earlier today just in case. Luckily it came.”
That came barely 18 minutes after kickoff at Red Bull Arena. Mines slipped home a Alejandro Romero Gamarra feed at the far right post past goalkeeper Jake Gleeson and the practice was worth it. The Red Bulls’ Homegrown Product ran toward the right corner of the north end of the stadium, put his right hand up to his head, mimicking making a call on his cell phone while he raised his left arm in triumph.
“My mom always calls me before a game,” he said. “So it’s for her. I’m truly grateful.”
Needless to say, Mines had a mixture of emotions as he became the third youngest player to score in the club’s 23-year history, behind Eddie Gaven and Jozy Altidore, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
“I didn’t know what to do, to be honest,” he said. “I was excited, happy, thought of everyone who helped me get to this moment and just did my celebration, went on with the game.
“It was kind of what I imagined. Just hearing the roar of the fans, it’s everything you dream of. You just kind of lose yourself in the moment, I guess.”
While he never showed it on the field, Mines was a bundle of nerves prior to kickoff.
“I was definitely nervous,” he said. “I was talking to Chris [Armas, assistant coach] and he said it was a good thing. Just take that in, live in the moment and play the best.”
A Red Bull Academy graduate, the 5-9, 140-lb. Mines impressed the Red Bulls in preseason. In fact, team captain Luis Robles called Mines the best player in camp.
“He made it easy for me to make that comment. we played three games in our first trip to Florida and he scored three goals,” he said. “For him to come in and score in his debut is incredible.”
That Mines was able to make his debut in the Red Bulls’ season opener was incredible enough.
“For a 17-year-old in a man’s world, he’s fit right in,” head coach Jesse Marsch said. “He’s not intimidated. He’s ready for this challenge. He’s excited. I met with his mom and him in the off-season, and just wanted to make sure that, you know, he had an opportunity to go to Stanford.
“I just wanted to make sure that as a group, we were all making the right decision to bring him in as a Homegrown player and even in that meeting, I could just see how driven he was to now make this move.”