Orlando City SC’s fourth off-season as a Major League Soccer franchise is expected to bring a lot of new faces to the team’s roster. With the Lions failing to make the playoffs for the third straight time and some important players like Kaká and Antonio Nocerino departing, the front office had the reasons and the opportunity to promote changes heading to the 2018 season.
One of the areas of the roster, though, should definitely not be a concern to the club. With goalkeepers Joe Bendik and Earl Edwards Jr. available, the Lions are literally in good hands. With each of the stoppers in different stages of their careers, Orlando seems to have the right mix for the upcoming season.
Bendik will start his third season in an Orlando City uniform as the incumbent between the posts. At the age of 28, the Marietta, GA, native is in the prime of his career and is among the best goalkeepers in the league.
In 2017, he started 33 of 34 matches for Orlando City, leading the team in minutes. But his consistency was not the only remarkable thing about his season. Bendik led MLS in saves, recording 118 stops in 173 shots fired against him. He also notched seven shutouts and multiple nominations for the Save of the Week.
The good season earned him a spot in the United States Men’s National Team’s preliminary roster for the Gold Cup, but he didn’t make the cut for the tournament roster.
Edwards, on the other hand, spent most of the year with Orlando City B in the United Soccer League (USL), where he played 23 games, amassing 80 saves and nine clean sheets. His good performance carried him to the USL All-League Second Team.
At the end of the season, Edwards was called up to the first team to replace the injured Josh Saunders and only played in the last match of the season. At the age of 25, he seems to be mature enough to be Bendik’s full-time backup on the MLS roster in 2018.
Mason Stajduhar, a 19-year-old HomeGrown Player with the U.S. Men’s National Team U-18 and U-20 in his background, has the perfect profile for the third goalkeeper role. However, he was recently diagnosed with bone cancer and will be unavailable for the season, meaning the Lions will have to look for a third option for the upcoming year, provided the club continues to field a USL side.