To Orlando City fans, Joe Bendik looks like the best goalkeeper in the world at times. Just to be clear; he looks like the best goalkeeper in the world. Obviously he doesn’t have much acclaim internationally, but right now the rest of Major League Soccer is certainly taking notice of what Lions fans have witnessed constantly since his arrival last year. Plain and simple, Joe Bendik is a shot-stopping machine.
USMNT Head Coach Bruce Arena recently rewarded Bendik for his outstanding performances by listing him on the preliminary 40-man Gold Cup roster. The Gold Cup is a prestigious tournament where every country from CONCACAF gets together and competes. One trend that I have spotted is that the USMNT tends to pick a weaker squad in years where the team also has to play World Cup qualifiers. As mentioned earlier, the preliminary roster for this year’s Gold Cup has already been chosen. This initial roster is a list of 40 players Arena will have to pick from to choose his final 23-man roster.
Both Jonathan Spector and Joe Bendik were included in the preliminary roster. Of course, in this article I will be focusing on Bendik. With all the quality Lions fans see from Bendik every weekend, it’s hard to believe he has never been called up to the USMNT. Bendik has represented the U.S. at the youth level, but since then he has barely even been in the conversation for a call-up.
Even though Bendik has been listed on the preliminary roster, there is no guarantee he will go to the Gold Cup. There were six goalkeepers on the list, so it is likely that three will be cut. It will be difficult for Bendik to make the list as he has no international experience. Also, it’s alleged that Arena is keen to pick FC Dallas’s Jesse Gonzalez to cap tie him and prevent him from playing for Mexico.
If that does happen, that would leave two spots, which would be competed for by Bendik, Bill Hamid, Tim Howard, Sean Johnson, and Brad Guzan. All four of those other keepers have experience for the U.S. Besides the speculation of whether or not he’ll make it, two questions loom. If he makes the squad and gets game time, will he show Arena what he’s been missing? If he doesn’t make the squad, will he ever get another opportunity?
Both of these questions are very tough to answer. To be frank, I don’t think he is going to make the squad. Those other guys are just too proven and I don’t think Arena would pick both Jesse Gonzalez and Bendik. If he does make it though, I don’t have a doubt in my mind that he’ll be able to perform. This might sound like a bold statement, but from what I’ve seen him do, I know he can play at the highest level. A lot of the time he gets billed as a keeper who just does the spectacular, but I think he is overall a fantastic keeper. If his name was Tim Howard, then he would definitely be a much bigger talking point in the league.
Now, I have to look at the other, more ominous question. If Bendik doesn’t make this squad, it will definitely be a massive setback. There is no arguing that. To be honest, right now does seem like his best chance to break into the team. Any other chance would have to come after the 2018 World Cup. If he continues to grow his game, which I believe he will, then I don’t see why he couldn’t be called up in a couple years. He’s only 28 now, which is relatively young for a keeper, and Guzan and Howard might not be in the picture by then. But other young goalkeepers are coming up through the system and Bendik could miss his window.
If you should take away anything from this article, it is that Joe Bendik is at a good stage in his career. Whether or not he gets his chance in the Gold Cup this summer remains to be seen, but he’ll be ready if he does.