Benjamin Machini Interview: Swedish American Goalkeeper Continues to Develop Overseas

Benjamin Machini is goalkeeper currently playing in Spain with RCD Mallorca's second team, RCD Mallorca B. The nineteen year old is a dual citizen with the US and Sweden and has been playing in Spain for almost three years now, after playing with SBV Excelsior in the Netherlands. Machini possesses an intense mentality towards the game and displays some great reflexes. The young goalkeeper talks about his connection with the US, what he has gained as a goalkeeper playing overseas, and his future goals.

What’s your connection to the US? How much time have you spent in America?

I was born in Ketchikan, Alaska but spent most of my childhood years growing up in Hollywood, Florida. I lived in Florida up until I was about 13 when I decided to move to Sweden, mainly because of the fact of my love for the game of soccer. When I was 15 I returned to the U.S. for one season at the Real Salt Lake-AZ academy. After that season I moved to the Netherlands. 


Describe your game to someone who hasn’t watched you before. How do you impact the game and what aspects are you still looking to develop?

I try to help my team as much as possible, I try to be able to leave the field saying that I did everything possible to win. I hate losing and I am told to be very intense and aggressive on the field, but in a positive way. I don't like hearing silence during the game. In this way I try to be as vocal as possible. Depending on the intensity of the match, I might lose my voice from being too vocal time to time. But these are things which I base my game on, to be able to stay focused for 90 minutes and to make sure the team is as organized as possible. Especially during games which I don't touch a ball for 20 minutes, and then all of the sudden I'm called into action and have to be there for your team. This is the part of my game which I am trying to develop most. The part spectators don't understand. The ability to do practically nothing for 89 minutes, and in the 90th minute, do your job, help your team. To me this is a real skill. 

As far as how I impact the game, I like to think that I do it in a positive way. I am extremely competitive. (On a sidenote, I have an older brother who played football. Winning was everything between me and him. Be it basketball or ping pong) Being intense and vocal, not letting anyone switch off for a second, including myself. Then doing my job and making a few saves along the way. My job is to keep clean sheets and avoid letting balls into the goal, by any means necessary, for the ultimate goal of the game which is to win. It's quite simple actually, but obviously not easy at all. 


You’ve played in the Netherlands with Excelsior and now Spain with RCD Mallorca. How has your time with the two clubs helped your game?

At Excelsior, when I was 16-17, I had the privilege of being a part of the first team for a whole year, which I learned a lot about the world of professional soccer. In the Netherlands, the game is extremely possession based. This made me improve my game with the ball at my feet, due to the fact that in the Netherlands the goalkeeper will have the ball at his feet many more times than in his hands. The goalkeepers in the Netherlands are expected to be able to build up from the back very comfortably. During a normal match in the Netherlands, goalkeepers will receive the ball many times under pressure and be asked to keep possession. 

Here in Mallorca, I have learned many things. The goalkeeper coaches I have had here in Spain are a very high level. They expect an equally high level from each goalkeeper as well, which makes the training sessions very competitive and intense. This makes us ready for the matches by miles. The training regimen is very complete, working on every aspect of the game possible, which turns you into a very complete goalkeeper. However, what they help us the most in is decision making, tactically and technically. They believe, and I believe this to be true, that the game is played mostly with the mind, and that the game is played by intelligent players at the highest levels. So correct decision making is vital when it comes to playing well and developing. 


Tell us a little bit about environment you’re currently in. What is something you were surprised to find at RCD Mallorca?

The environment at the club is very professional. All of the players have hopes of making it into the first team. So the coaches and staff expect the most out of each and every one of us every time we play. The expectations are high, which makes the level of the training sessions and games always very sharp. 

What surprised me is how huge the club actually is. I mean, I knew RCD Mallorca was a big club. I grew up watching La Liga on tv with my dad and now actually being here is a blessing. But I did not know the history of the club and what it means to this island until I moved here and lived it myself. Being on the reserves, we play against a lot of local teams. Every time you play a local team, to them it's a final. It is that simple. This is the biggest club on the island, so RCD Mallorca is like playing against Barcelona to them or Real Madrid.

This means that every week we (Mallorca B) are playing against sides that have unbelievable amounts of motivation to get a result. They don't care how, just to be able to say they beat Mallorca is priceless. Which again, always keeps us as sharp as possible because we know we get no easy matches. Almost every match is a hard fought battle. I really did not understand it, until I experienced it myself.


What’s the goal in five years? Is there a specific league or country you’re looking to establish yourself in?

In five years I really can't say. I like to take things step by step towards just getting better and learning as much as possible. The short term goals are what I look at the most. I am very happy with where I am right now, but obviously the next goal is to break into the first team. First, helping my team as much as I possibly can to get promoted to "Segunda B", and go from there. The idea is just constant improvement, and I believe things will take care of themselves if I focus on that.  

As far as where I would like to play, I love the Spanish league and the passion for the game here. I hope to be able to play in La Liga one day for Mallorca. I also am a huge fan of the [English] Premier League. For now though, like I said, I am just focused on my job with my team, and developing as much as possible along the way.

The USMNT hasn’t played Sweden since 2009 so it doesn’t look like anything is going to change soon, but let’s say they were to play a friendly tomorrow. Who are you rooting for?

Believe it or not I am asked this question quite frequently. The truth is that I hope for a tie or a result that could benefit both teams. I know this is a very neutral answer, but it is the truth. I love both countries deeply and I am very grateful to be considered both American and Swedish. I know my mother would be rooting for Sweden though!