Player Profile: Vinny Bell
Vinny Bell is a name that is synonymous with Cleveland soccer. After playing collegiately in the Cleveland metro area, he signed with AFC Cleveland, eventually leading the club to a NPSL Championship in 2016. 2017, however, would bring the collapse of the club. When Cleveland SC founded the next year, it only made sense to bring the Cleveland soccer icon into the squad. 2018 saw Clevaland SC have a strong first season, which ended in the playoffs. We sat down with Vinny to profile this local legend and discuss his views on Cleveland soccer, US Soccer’s approach to minority recruitment, and the music Cleveland SC needs to be playing during warmups.
So let's start off with you, how did you get into soccer originally?
My mom who was also my coach at one point got me started playing when I was 3, so I didn't have much say in the matter. The league was for 4 year olds but I was pretty chubby so they let me play. I was mostly there for the halftime snacks.
You're about as Cleveland soccer as you can be, playing both HS and college before playing in the NPSL, what's that scene like?
Cleveland soccer has a rich history that long predates me, I am just happy I could experience a piece of its evolution. Just one look at our Supporter Group, high schools, local colleges and Pro/Semi-pro players you can see how Cleveland is full of talent and passion for the game. I love to see some of the guys I grew up playing alongside compete at the highest levels and am thankful I could make my own small contributions to Cleveland's soccer culture and winning history.
Cleveland SC started strong last season - you played a big part - how do you plan on repeating that?
We have a huge advantage having a core group that has played together so long. We can basically cut out the whole building chemistry phase of preseason which many teams can't. Plus we were missing the legend Tom Beck the first half of last season so we are in good shape to repeat.
Can you describe your playing style?
Pretty unorthodox. I would say I use decision making and a patient aggression to create plays and make something out of nothing. We have guys like Mikey, Admir, Cvecko and Tone who play some beautiful soccer so I think my controlled chaos compliments them well.
Finding reliable stats in the NPSL is tough, aside from your 2 goal performance in the NPSL Final 3 years ago - How many goals have you scored in the league?
Over 55. The seasons start to blend together the older I get.
How do you measure success personally?
Probably by how much I am having fun and being challenged. Ever since I was the chubby 3 year old in my local rec league my dad would tell me before most games to make sure I had fun out there. He still says it. Success rarely follows the apathetic and dispassionate.
How can US soccer get more African American kids involved? What lessons could US soccer take from your own experience?
Soccer in the US is fundamentally flawed and it's not a secret. From the ground up, the pay to play system and greed in other forms limits opportunity and cripples our talent identification and development. For US soccer as a whole to be more successful I think it needs to lower the barriers of entry for the inner city, immigrants, ect. The support system, facilities and investment just isn't there. The blueprint is certainly out there just look at France and many other places that do it the right way.
Cleveland is about to host the Gold Cup, as a Cleveland native, what are your views on that competition and the US team overall?
The Browns, Indians and Cavs hype often overshadows the hardcore soccer culture that exists around the city so I am all for any competition that brings a soccer buzz to Cleveland. I am definitely hoping the young US team can bounce back and am interested to see how they perform under the new coach so it should be exciting to watch.
What are music are you listening to?
Usually alot of J Cole and Kendrick Lamar. Definitely need "Old Town Road" on the pregame warm-up this year though.
Chips Ahoy - Original or Soft Baked?
Soft baked but Original with milk is also acceptable. Only serial killers and Erie supporters eat hard, dry cookies.
If you want to see more of Cory Mizer’s soccer-themed art, check out his gallery here.