Orlando City has found a sparring mate for Earl Edwards Jr.
Bendik will come into preseason as the favorite to land the starting goalkeeper job after Tally Hall was let go by the club this off-season, but he'll still have to beat out Edwards Jr., the promising pick in last year's MLS SuperDraft that earned a lot of praise from club coaches and officials in 2015.
Playing behind one of the league's worst back lines, Bendik posted some pretty cringe-worthy numbers in 2015, allowing 27 goals with 45 saves and a 2.08 goals against average in just 13 starts. His career goals-against average in 78 games is 1.62.
The 26-year-old has spent four seasons in MLS, three with Toronto FC after being acquired from the Portland Timbers in 2012. He faced Orlando City twice in 2015, making six saves and allowing only one goal in two starts, winning both games by a combined 6-1 score line. Luke Boden was the only Lion who managed to score against him.
Bendik fills an obvious need on the roster for an experienced MLS goalkeeper that can compete with Edwards Jr., who is coming off of a minor knee surgery at the end of the season. He replaces Hall, who started the majority of the games in 2015 for Orlando City before suffering a torn meniscus in October, forcing him to undergo his second knee operation in a span of less than 14 months, forcing the Lions to part way with the risk.
This move should not be viewed as a like-for-like transition from Hall, a fan favorite. Hall came to Orlando as the clear-cut No. 1 shot stopper, while the MLS veteran Bendik will come aboard to provide insurance in case Edwards is not ready to become a full-time MLS starter.
The Lions only have one other goalkeeper currently on the roster: Homegrown signing Mason Stajduhar, who is expected to spend all of 2016 with Orlando City B in USL. Reports out of Portugal have indicated that Orlando will be adding Cape Verde and former Benfica B goalkeeper Thierry Graça, who could also be slated to help OCB.