Running with the Bulls: Elmhurst native begins pro career near home – QNS.com

Running with the Bulls: Elmhurst native begins pro career near home

By Dylan Butler

Mesa, the former Newtown standout, signed a developmental contract with the New York Red Bulls of Major League Soccer last week. Finally, after years of setbacks, the Elmhurst native can call himself a professional soccer player.”It's just starting to hit me,” Mesa said on Monday. “It's taken a while. I can't believe it's happening.”Mesa has been a trialist with the Red Bulls since late January, when he made the cut at a mini-camp and joined the senior team in Carson, Calif. He stayed on and impressed first-year coach Juan Carlos Osorio when the team played in Austria and in South Carolina last week.Playing in a preseason exhibition game against the Charleston Battery in the Carolina Challenge Cup, Mesa latched onto a cross from Sinisa Ubiparipovic and headed in a goal in a 1-1 tie.”I was given the opportunity to show my potential in the final 20 minutes and I got into a good position to head the ball in,” Mesa said. “It happened so quickly. It was like a second. It helped build up my confidence.”One day later, Jeff Agoos, the Red Bulls' sporting director, offered Mesa a contract.”It's crazy,” Mesa said. “I didn't expect to end up playing here. I tried out in so many places in the world, but I'm really glad to be given the opportunity to play in MLS.”Mesa's not going to be able to buy a Hummer or his parents a new house with his first pro contract – last year, developmental players made $12,900. But it's more about being able to start his professional career that matters to Mesa. “Many times I started thinking about doing something else,” Mesa said. “But I've learned from the mistakes of others. I couldn't be another player added to the list. I kept working hard to achieve my goals.”Mesa thought he had that opportunity two years ago, when he was set to play for F.C. Schaffhausen of the Swiss Super League, the highest level of the sport in Switzerland.But when he arrived in Schaffhausen, located about 10 minutes north of Zurich, things didn't work out as planned. Mesa was unable to obtain a work permit and three months later he was back in Queens, crushed.”It pulled me down a lot, but I didn't let it stay inside my head,” he said. “I kept going that extra step, that extra mile. I knew if I played hard and focused, something was going to come up sooner or later. I had to be patient and give it some time.”Mesa spent six months training with Deportivo Cali in Colombia, but when a contract never materialized, Mesa again returned to Queens and attended Briarcliff Community College for a semester. But his focus on playing professional soccer never wavered. “His single-mindedness and determination will take him far,” said David Price, a former St. John's soccer player who coached Mesa on the club level for several years. “A lot of players have talent, but they don't have the heart and single-mindedness that Kevin has.”The Red Bulls open their 2008 season April 5 against the Columbus Crew and Mesa will be walking out of the tunnel at Giants Stadium with the likes of Claudio Reyna and Juan Pablo Angel. Price plans on being in the stands and has one request. “I told him after his first game to send me his jersey,” Price said.Mesa hopes this is just the start of his story.”I'm proof,” he said, “that you can go from a nobody to become somebody.”

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