Ben, tell us how you first got into professional football?
“In terms of professional football, I guess I started long before that. I think I started playing at about 5-years-old and my brother played too. He was twelve years older than me and I always looked up to him. I went to College and then went to the University of Akron, I later transferred to the University of North Carolina and I then signed a home-grown contract with Colombus Crew which is where I am from in Ohio. I’m now at Minnesota United and just really excited for this opportunity.”
What would you say you learned during your 3 years at Columbus Crew?
“There was definitely a lot of learning. Some low moments and some real high moments. We just lost the final last year which is always a little bit difficult, but it was also such a positive year.
I think it’s important to keep trying to get better on the field. It’s our job, it’s what we are paid for but just trying to improve my game has been such a great learning experience.”
You’re now at Minnesota United, how excited are you for the upcoming season?
“Sure, I’m really excited. It seems like they are building a great team here, a great club and big things are certainly on the horizon for Minnesota United. I definitely wanted to be a part of it, the season starts in April and I just caint wait to get started.”
Tell us about what you’re like as a player?
“I’m an attacking player, mostly an attacking player in the middle but I can play on the wings as well. I love to go 1 v 1 or receive the ball on the lines and turn.
I think one of my best traits is my ability to turn in tight spaces and anywhere around the goal getting shots off. I just love to be as exciting and as dangerous as possible in the box.”
“There’s a few. Signing of Columbus Crew was exciting, I played through the academy so signing was amazing. Then back in college we won the Championship with North Carolina and that was a huge deal. I think any time you win something it’s obviously going to be a big thing; you work hard with your team-mates all year round and to come together and go out on top is something special.”
If you could have the opportunity to play for any Premier League team, who would it be and why?
“I think you guys are going to like this! I know everyone in England has their club and for me, my club is for sure, Manchester United. Every since I was young, it’s always been Manchester United. I loved David Beckham then I moved onto Cristiano Ronaldo and now Wayne Rooney.
It’s always been United for me. The Premier League is definitely the most watched league over here in the States too, there are a lot of EPL fans.”
What’s the vibe like out in America in relation to the MLS?
“I would say a lot of people are excited. There’s a lot more emerging fans who support their MLS teams whilst there are still a few older fans who support their Premier League sides. It’s great to see more American fans getting excited for the MLS season and it’s just great for the sport.”
Who is the best player you’ve ever played against?
“Well, there’s difficult defenders I’ve played against but as an attacking player I’m going to pick a like for like player. He’s definitely someone who can change a game and that’s Thierry Henry when he was at New York Red Bulls.
He was a little bit different when he was at Arsenal but he could still have a big impact on the game. The most surprising thing for me was how big he is. His stature is huge and he still glides, he’s massive. Great player.”
Who was your footballing hero growing up?
“I’ve always loved the no.7’s at Manchester United. First it was Beckham and then when he left it was Cristiano Ronaldo. I would say that Cristiano is maybe still my favourite, if he ever came back to Man United he would of course be my favourite!”
Best thing about being a professional football player?
“The best thing is being able to do thing you love for a job, anyone would kill to do that. I try to enjoy every moment, knowing that I can’t play forever. I’m just taking it all in and trying to be the best player I can be.”
We would love to hear how you gave your life to Jesus, how did that happen for you?
“Well I grew up in a Christian home. My Mum taught in a Christian school and she still teaches there now, I was always brought up with a Christian education. Having a faith filled family was so important and I made that faith my own when I was at high school and through to college. I realise that my faith is the most important thing in my life and having Christ as number one. I feel that God has given me the gifts and opportunity to play football and I try and use that to share the good news.”
Why would you say you’re so open about your faith?
“Because that’s who I am. Like I said, I use what I can, whatever that platform is. I want to be a witness to people. If people have a question, I would love them to come and ask me about my faith and share. I think witnessing and bringing other people to Christ is why we are here on earth so I want to be as open as possible.”
Do you think other footballers should be more open about their faith?
“I think that people have different personalities, I wouldn’t call myself outgoing, I kind of keep myself to myself. However, I understand the importance of sharing my faith. I would say that if a Christian has the opportunity to share, then do it, but I do understand we all have different personalities so it is up to them.”
Do you see your footballing talent as a gift?
“Absolutely, I feel like I’ve been given the ability to do what I do. Yes, it’s up to me to try and make myself better but at the same time, I feel like it’s a gift from God.
It’s also a platform, to show who I am and who I play for so that’s really the most important thing for me.”
Favourite Bible verse?
“Probably, Proverbs 27:17 – “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” This was kind of a big verse for me, it still is I guess because this was our moto through my high school years with our soccer programme. I was with a great group of guys who bonded through soccer and Christ, it was a great few years. These guys are still my closest friends and it’s been great to be encouraged by them. More recently, Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” I’m a new father with my wife, so that verse has really come to light.
Finally, how has your love for Jesus impacted your career as a whole?
“I’m not exactly sure where this question goes, but I know where I’m going with this question! One thing I have learned is to trust God. He has perfect timing no matter what. As humans we think we have it all figured out, but we really have it figured out at all and there could be a completely different plan. Whatever is supposed to happen will happen, God has perfect timing. In terms of soccer, I got a bad leg injury and I was out of the game for about a year but I had to take it out of my hands and give it over to God. As a professional, you never know where you might be like I’ve just moved, I’ve been here for 2 weeks and I’ve never been to Minnesota in my life. So I’m just trusting in God and it’s something I’ve learned and I will continue to do long after my career has finished.”