Joe Bendik was one of the several players who left Orlando City SC at the end of the 2018 Major League Soccer season. Unlike many of his former teammates, however, the 29-year-old goalkeeper has already found a new home, one he’s excited about.
Bendik was traded to Columbus Crew SC in December and has already started working for his new club as it trained in Ohio for a couple of days before it flew to Chula Vista, CA. In just a few days with his new teammates, the former Lion is already enjoying the benefits of the move.
“I feel fresh and excited to be here, especially in a time when the club is changing a little bit with a new ownership and a new staff,” Bendik said. “I’m excited to be here in a club that’s very grounded and has a great base and infrastructure. I’m just here for whatever I can help with and to compete. It’s a group that really knows each other, so I’ll just kind of sit back for the next couple of weeks and kind of see how things are run here and just get on board as quickly as I can.”
A fresh start is definitely something Bendik should be looking for in 2019 after a frustrating third season with Orlando. Last year, the Lions ended the year with the unwanted label of “worst defense in MLS history” after they conceded 74 goals in 34 regular season matches. Bendik was between the posts for 58 of those goals.
“It was obviously a complicated season in Orlando and one that really tested everybody in the organization,” the goalkeeper recalled. “You can only learn from it. I obviously need to improve and I’m looking forward to doing that. We have a great goalkeeper staff here so as much as we can learn and push each other and compete together, the best it will be.”
In Columbus, Bendik found a relatively comfortable situation as the goalkeeper won’t likely be in demand until July as U.S. National Team regular Zack Steffen will probably remain as the undisputed starter for the Crew.
During the summer, though, with Steffen’s departure to Manchester City (or wherever the EPL side loans him), the Crew will be looking for a starting goalkeeper and Bendik hopes Crew Head Coach Caleb Porter looks within the roster to fill that spot. He’s already looking forward to spending time with Steffen, who’s with the National Team, and to continue working with new goalkeeper coach Matt Reis.
“I’m going to train and compete every single day, it doesn’t matter if I’m the starter or the third string goalkeeper,” the former Lion said. “I see it as an incredible opportunity to work with an excellent goalkeeper and to be part of his young career.”
Bendik is expected to get his first minutes as a Crew player on Monday, when the Ohio club plays a friendly match against Japanese team Vissel Kobe at the Orange County Great Park, in Irvine.
“It will be a good opportunity to compete with all of the guys and the other goalkeepers,” he added. “It’s important to start getting the system Caleb wants to play and kind of add on to the same culture this team had over the last years.”