On February 9, Bento Estrela became the 24th homegrown in New York Red Bulls history, while also becoming the youngest at the age of 14 years and 364 days.
Estrela joined Red Bulls Academy in July 2019, where he started off with the U-14’s. By the beginning of 2020, he had made the jump to the U-19’s.
“When he came into the group you didn't even notice how young he was,” said U-19 Head Coach Samuel Castellanos. “He has adapted really well from a maturity standpoint which has influenced his performances on the field.”
The Bloomfield, New Jersey native appeared in 22 matches during his time with the Academy. After recording a couple assists for the U-19’s, he scored his first goal against Philadelphia Union II.
After working with him for the last twelve months, Castellanos realized quick that they had something special on their hands.
“He adapted really well from a maturity standpoint, which influenced his performances on the field,” Castellanos said.
There were many reasons that Academy Director Sean McCafferty decided to push Estrela up to the U-19’s.
“We wanted to improve Bento's ability to play with less touches in the buildup and progression phases of play, playing with and against older players creates those situations as the game is quicker and more physical,” McCafferty said. “We wanted him to attack space, as this is one of his greatest weapons, but by playing up he learns that there are other solutions that he needs to see such as finding the through ball for our players running in behind and switching the point of attack to involve”
Playing up multiple age groups has it challenges, but McCafferty saw Estrela take those challenges and push them aside.
“Playing up is not just a physical challenge, it’s also a tactical and mental challenge as we take players out of their comfort zone and force them to suffer at times as this builds resiliency and ensures humility and a growth mindset to continue to work hard and get better every day,” McCafferty said. “Bento [Estrela] was able to accomplish these things at a high level.”
After making the jump to the U-19’s, the next big leap in Estrela’s young career is to the first team. The first stop on that journey is with preseason camp, which begins on March 1.