Player countdown: Matt Behncke

How it all came to be...
Matt Behncke had no choice but to play soccer growing up. His father, Robert Behncke, played at West Point and wanted his sons to follow in his footsteps. Behncke's older brother, Griffin, is a year and a half older, and they did everything together when they were younger. When Griffin started playing soccer, so did Matt. He would tag along at practices and play with his brother and father whenever he could. Behncke played all different sports growing up but soccer was the sport he liked the most. Behncke started playing soccer with his friends in a local recreational league, when he played recreational soccer until he moved to Virginia when he was ten years-old.

In Virginia, Behncke got very lucky regarding the coach of the new club team he had joined upon arrival in Williamsburg, Va. Al Albert, who was the men's soccer coach at The College of William and Mary at the time, was Behncke's club coach from the time he moved to Virginia until he left for college. With the Williamsburg Soccer club, Behncke bettered his game everyday under the guidance of Albert.

When Behncke reached high school, he was already making his talents known. While attending the Hampton Roads Academy, he started playing for the Olympic Development Program (ODP). He was on the Virginia State Team, moved his way up to the Regional Team and finally broke into the National Team pool. While Behncke was 15 and 16 years-old, he played in a couple tournaments for the U-17 National Team.

Upon graduating from high school, after many achievements with his ODP teams, Behncke set his sights on playing college soccer. At the time, his brother, Griffin, was attending and playing soccer at Princeton University. Behncke had made several trips there to visit his brother and he really liked the school and was very comfortable on campus. He decided to follow his brother and knew that was where he wanted to attend school and play soccer. Princeton had the perfect mix of academics and soccer and Behncke recalls the decision an easy choice.

At Princeton, Behncke was a unanimous first-team All-Ivy League selection his junior and senior year, and also garnered second team Mid-Atlantic Region honors in his last season. He registered six goals and five assists overall for a Princeton squad that led the Ivy League in goals (34) and assists (36). His sophomore year, Behncke and the Tigers won the Ivy League title and he was named Ivy League Rookie of the Year his freshman year.

A standout at Princeton University, Behncke caught the attention of Major League Soccer. He was invited to play in the 2002 MLS Combine during his senior year. He had a good showing and was optimistic for the future. His feelings were right and he was selected in the Second Round (18th overall) of the 2002 MLS SuperDraft by the Dallas Burn, now known as FC Dallas.

Behncke didn't make an appearance for the Burn until the summer because it was very important to him that he graduate from Princeton first. Behncke had an agreement with the Burn that he would make it to practices and other team obligations whenever he could; however a 100-page thesis stood in the way of Behncke and the Dallas Burn soccer field.

Behncke finally made it to Dallas in June and played in three games, making two starts. All three of his appearances came in the final six games of the season. The 2004 season was his first full season with the Burn breaking into the lineup on numerous occasions and becoming a starter by the end of the season. He started the final six games of the season and played the full 90 minutes in five of those. In 2004, his third season with the Burn proved to be Behncke's best yet. He played a career-high 17 games with 14 starts in 2004 and he scored the first goal of his MLS career against the Colorado Rapids.

Behncke is coming off his best season yet in the MLS and hopes to continue that success with his new team, Real Salt Lake. RSL selected Behncke in the Seventh Round (Fourteenth overall) of the 2004 MLS Expansion Draft. Behncke is really enjoying being a part of Real Salt Lake and is very glad to be here.

Coach Ellinger's Call... "I first saw Matt playing center back for Dallas and I liked him right away. He has a great left foot and is very smart tactically. He will play center or wide defense for Real Salt Lake and we are very happy to have him from Dallas."

Field Vision: Forward Jason Kreis says... "Matt is easily the smartest person I know and that helps him tremendously on the soccer field. He possesses all the characteristics of what you would want in a defender. He is big, strong and quite good with his feet for his size."

Things you need to know...

Reading, golfing, biking, hiking, and he's looking forward to all the outdoor activities on the Wasatch Front

Major in college:

Most memorable moments:
Winning his first Ivy League title with Princeton in 1999 and scoring his first MLS goal against Colorado in 2004

Favorite music:
Downloads all kinds of music from iTunes

Favorite movie:
A River Runs Through It

Favorite food:
Beef tenderloin

Favorite book:
Soldier of the Great War by Mark Helprin and The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay

Favorite TV show:
The OC

Favorite athlete outside of soccer:
Tiger Woods

Greatest accomplishments:
Winning the Roper Award which is given annually to Princeton's top male scholar

Promoting literacy or education or reading to local school kids

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