If something of interest happens on the pitch while the Missouri State men’s soccer Bears are on it, odds are senior forward Matt Bentley would describe it as “moving mad.”
Bentley transferred to Missouri State at the beginning of 2019, and the London native said the term can be used for anything.
“It’s a slang term from back home,” Bentley said. “If someone’s doing really well, you can say ‘ah, they’re moving mad’ because they’re doing madness on the pitch. Also if someone does soemthing really stupid, or just out of character, you can say ‘oh, they’re moving mad.’ Some of the boys here move really mad.”
Bentley is in his first and only season at Missouri State, but he’s the leading goal scorer on an undefeated team, scoring eight goals in 12 contests.
Growing up in London, Bentley said soccer has been his favorite sport since his early years.
“Back home, football is really the main sport — everyone plays it,” Bentley said. “Even in school, on the playground, that’s the sport you’re really playing. When you’re young, you just sort of fall in love with that. There’s no other sport for me.”
Bentley took after his father in that they both are big fans of Arsenal F.C. in London. He said supporting the club just made his love for soccer more intense. Bentley is a season ticket holder, but his older brother is using them while he is in the U.S.
Bentley continued to play soccer at the highest level he could in England, playing in the youth program for Colchester United F.C. Once he turned 16, which is a turning point for soccer players in England, Bentley chose a different route than some of his peers.
“When you get to the age of 16, you either sign a scholarship, which is where you’re like an apprentice at a professional club, or you carry on your education,” Bentley said. “I didn’t get offered that contract, so I was like, ‘I’ll stick with my education and play at the highest level possible.’”
The university system in England is very different from America in terms of athletics. English universities offer sports on the side, but they do not have the same importance they do in America. Bentley said he thought playing soccer in America would be the best way to do that.
Bentley said moving to America was a major adjustment that helped him mature. He said he was very independent in London, but moving across the Atlantic made him even more so.
“If your family is in Missouri, you can go home if there’s ever a problem,” Bentley said. “I can FaceTime and that’s good, but in the immediate future there’s not much you can do. When you have problems like that — that’s when you really grow.”
A minor adjustment Bentley had to make in America was cheese.
“I don’t like cheese,” Bentley said. “Back home, if there’s a little bit of cheese I might let it pass, but here it’s a joke. Everything comes with cheese, so whenever I go out, I have to specify no cheese on anything I order. There’s been times where its not on the menu, then I order the food and there’s cheese. Not a fan.”
Bentley’s first stop for American soccer was West Virginia Wesleyan, a Division II school, where he played three seasons. He scored 14 goals in his junior year.
After his junior year at West Virginia Wesleyan, Bentley said he wanted to make a move to get noticed on a national level.
Enter Missouri State — more specifically, associate head coach Michael Seabolt.
“We got in contact with him — liked him as a person,” Seabolt said.
Seabolt said himself and the other coaches at MSU are usually tentative to recruit a player based on video alone. But a former player of Seabolt’s, Dan Stratford — whom Seabolt coached during his time as the head coach at West Virginia University — is the head coach at the University of Charleston (in West Virginia), and his team often played against Bentley.
Seabolt said a conversation with Stratford solidified the choice to recruit Bentley. Stratford told Seabolt Bentley was one of the few players good enough they would have to specifically gameplan for him.
Seabolt took a trip to London over the winter break of 2018 to visit Bentley, and by the time classes started in January, he was a Bear.
“We don’t spend a lot of time seeking out transfers,” Seabolt said. “We spend a lot of time seeking out great young men that will be great students and great athletes. Matt Bentley is exactly what we look for.”
The adjustment process was smooth, according to Bentley.
“The boys took me in straight away,” Bentley said. “The togetherness as a team — it’s not really about individuals. It’s showed really with how good we have been.”
His teammates say they feel the same way.
“As soon as he came I was thinking ‘okay, this is a guy I can play with,’” redshirt senior forward Ian Jones said. “Everyone knew he was a great guy — great personality.”
The smooth adjustment has paid off on the pitch. Bentley is the leading scorer of an offensive attack that has been more balanced than in previous years.
Bentley described himself as “moving mad” in the past few matches. He has scored six goals in four matches.
“I have the mentality that you want to be the best player on the pitch no matter what,” Bentley said. “You treat each opponent with respect, but you have to believe that you are better than them.”
As for what happens next after he graduates from Missouri State, Bentley said he wants to continue to play soccer. In case that does not work, he is finishing his economics degree with the thought of going into investment banking.