RICHMOND, Va. – The Richmond Kickers are pleased to announce the signing of former Minnesota United MLS SuperDraft pick and Lionsbridge FC forward Matt Bentley for the 2022 season, pending league and federation approval.
"Matt Bentley has scored goals wherever he has played,” Chief Sporting Officer and Head Coach Darren Sawatzky said. “We saw him up close this past season and he has been on our list for the 2022 season. He brings a solid soccer acumen, ability to take players on and stretch defenses, and he finishes the chances he creates. He will be another weapon in the attack for us."
The London native caught the eyes of the Kickers’ technical staff following a fruitful 2021 campaign at the USL League Two side. Playing just over an hour’s drive down I64, Bentley bagged nine (9) goals and three (3) assists in 16 appearances. Following the conclusion of the 2021 League Two season, Bentley accepted an invitation to train with the Kickers’ first team during the summer months.
“Training in the summer with the Kickers was cool and it was nice to be back in that full team environment again after Covid had ruined my 2020 year footballing wise,” Bentley said. “I trained well the first couple of days and I’m quite a sociable person so I got along with a lot of the team quickly and that made training a lot easier.”
He continued, “After training with the team, Coach Sawatzky said he wanted me for 2022 and stayed true to his word. Having the faith of the manager always encourages you to sign for a team.”
Bentley was an exceptional college soccer player at Missouri State University, picking up Missouri Valley Conference Offensive Player of the Year and First Team All-American honors while finishing as a MAC Hermann Trophy semifinalist as one of the top players in Division I soccer in 2019.
The forward scored 15 goals including six (6) game-winning goals during his landmark senior season. The MSU Bears would earn a top-10 ranking while finishing as a finalist in the Missouri Valley Conference Championship and taking No. 8 University of Central Florida to the brink in the second round of the NCAA Men’s Soccer Tournament.
Bentley was selected in the fourth round (88th overall) in the MLS SuperDraft by Minnesota United FC.
“I think I offer a different option going forward for sure in terms of movement in behind, dribbling with the ball and, ultimately, finishing,” Bentley said. “I’m a very direct player and my first thought is always to go forward. This should blend in well with the creative players we already have in the team.
The signing of Bentley marks the second time a Lionsbridge FC player has made the move inland after goalkeeper Joe Rice signed with the Kickers in 2019.
“We are very pleased for Matthew,” Lionsbridge FC Head Coach Chris Whalley said. “He had a terrific season for Lionsbridge last summer and we look forward to following his success with the Kickers in USL League One.”
Bentley says he is excited to take the pitch and replicate his goal scoring and goal creating success as the Kickers build upon the success of the 2021 season that saw the Reds make their first playoff appearance since 2016.
He added, “the goals for 2022 are simple really. Win it all!”