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Joe Bendik to Miss First MLS Game Since Joining Orlando City

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Earl Edwards Jr. is in line for his first MLS start.

MLS: Orlando City SC at New England Revolution Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Since joining Orlando City SC prior to the 2016 season, goalkeeper Joe Bendik has played in every match. That’s about to change. Bendik has been sidelined while undergoing MLS concussion protocol with Orlando Health Sports Medicine team doctors and is out for today, after taking a shot to the head in training on Saturday.

With backup Josh Saunders already out for the season following neck surgery, Earl Edwards Jr. is slated to make his first MLS start. Edwards, the club’s third-round pick (No. 43 overall) in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft, turned in a stellar season in the USL in 2017 with Orlando City B. The 25-year-old UCLA product finished eighth in saves (80) and tied for fifth in shutouts (9) in USL regular-season play despite being with the first team for the last two months.

Orlando City signed OCB backup keeper Jake Fenlason as an Extreme Hardship Goalkeeper pending federation approval. Fenlason will be available for selection this afternoon when the Lions visit the Philadelphia Union for the 2017 season finale at 4 p.m.

Per MLS roster rules, clubs may add players to their roster in cases of "Extreme Hardship." Extreme Hardship exists when an MLS club has fewer than four available outfield substitutes (less than 14 outfield players available) or has fewer than two goalkeepers available.

Fenlason, 24, made eight appearances with Orlando City B this season. OCB was 3-4-1 in Fenlason’s starts, and the University of Akron product kept two clean sheets in 2017 with the young Lions. He started one game in June while Edwards was in Orlando for a U.S. Open Cup match, and made 23 saves on 32 shots faced this season, allowing nine goals for a 72% save percentage. Fenlason was originally signed by OCB on Feb. 4, 2016, along with defender Zach Ellis-Hayden. A college teammate of Orlando City’s Richie Laryea, Fenlason posted a record of 18-3-3 with a career highs in saves (105) and shutouts (9) his final year at Akron, helping guide the team to the NCAA tournament semifinals.

Jake Fenlason with OCB in 2017

Date Opponent Result
Date Opponent Result
14-Jun at Toronto FC II Loss, 1-0
26-Aug at Louisville City Win, 3-0
31-Aug vs Bethlehem Steel Draw, 1-1
7-Sep vs Richmond Kickers Loss, 2-0
16-Sep at St. Louis FC Loss, 2-0
23-Sep vs Charleston Battery Win, 2-1
1-Oct at Richmond Kickers Win, 1-0
12-Oct vs Tampa Bay Rowdies Loss, 2-0

This is the second time that the Lions will field a backup goalkeeper in a season finale at Philadelphia. Two years ago, Josh Ford was forced to fill in for an injured Tally Hall, who had hurt his knee late in the previous game at home. Ford, who was also making his first career MLS start, allowed no goals in the run of play but did conceded one on a penalty in a 1-0 loss at the Union on the last day of the MLS season on Oct. 25, 2015.

It’s also the second time this year that the club has had a goalkeeper miss games due to taking a ball to the head. Early in the NWSL season, Aubrey Bledsoe needed time to recover from a wayward shot from Laura Alleway.

Edwards’ heroics have been seen before with the first team. He stopped a penalty in a 3-2 friendly victory over Ponte Preta prior to the 2016 MLS Season. He also stopped multiple penalties in a wild 4-4 U.S. Open Cup draw at the Charleston Battery in 2015, as the Lions advanced on Danny Mwanga’s spot kick as the 10th Orlando City shooter.

Bendik’s loss is significant, as the Lions’ stopper leads Major League Soccer in saves (118) this season