No move last off-season garnered more attention from Orlando City fans than the decision to cut fan-favorite goalkeeper Tally Hall. That didn’t make things any easier for Joe Bendik coming into Orlando after the club acquired him from Toronto FC during the off-season.
In Orlando, Bendik was reunited with his old goalkeeping coach from Toronto, Stewart Kerr, and proved a large majority of the fanbase wrong by turning himself into one of the league’s best goalkeepers in 2016.
Bendik started all 34 games for Orlando City this season after starting just 13 for Toronto in 2015. He posted five shutouts, made 114 saves, and let in 60 goals on 178 shots faced. Only Portland Timbers goalkeeper Jake Gleeson (118) made more saves than Bendik this season, and he played nearly 600 minutes less than Bendik, which is more of an indication of just how poor Portland’s defense was. But I digress.
The 60 goals scored on Bendik was also the highest in the league, but it doesn’t look so bad when you also consider he faced more shots than any other goalkeeper in the league this season, which also shows just how bad Orlando City’s defense was in 2016.
You won’t see this anywhere on his career stats sheet, but Bendik was also won MLS Save of the Week 12 times in 2016 — far more than any other goalkeeper in the league. That 12-for-34 mark ain’t a bad record.
My choice for best game, because really there were so many to choose from for Bendik, would be the club’s 1-0 win at Yankee Stadium in March. It was Orlando’s first road game of the year, and a pretty big win over New York City FC at that time early in the season. Bendik made several huge saves in the match, officially kicking off his rise in Lion Nation.
2016 Final Rating
All things considered, Bendik was put in front of a bad back line, forced into action more than any other goalkeeper, and still put in a more than impressive campaign. His grade for the season will go down as an 8, as put together through help from both fans on Twitter and our own writers — some fans even going as far to say he was the MVP of the season. Who would have predicted that back in February?
Orlando City has found its goalkeeper moving forward. There’s no reason to think Bendik won’t be back next season as the No. 1 heading into the preseason. If Jason Kreis can fix up the back line this winter, Bendik will be much better off for having to work less, which of course is best for all parties involved. That’s the biggest key for the Lions.