TFC 2013 Top 36 Countdown: Number Three - Joe Bendik

The "Joe Bendik" face strikes fear into the hearts and minds of opposition strikers. He's going to make the save. - Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

This goalkeeper earns bronze in the countdown for keeping Frei on the bench and keeping TFC's goal safe - at number 3, Joe Bendik.

Average Ranking: 3
Highest Ranking: 1
Lowest Ranking: 11

Armen: 1. You know, when Joe Bendik was traded to Toronto FC, the news was received with about as much enthusiasm as when Chris Konopka was traded to the club this September - mostly, people said "who?" and figured Stefan Frei would be returning after riding the bench last year. When Toronto completed the trade of Milos Kocic and Ryan Johnson to Portland in exchange for the keeper and a first round draft pick, we focused on the pick, that yielded Kyle Bekker.

Then, Bendik started in preseason. He did well. He kept starting and then the first game of the season came. The team sheet was released and lo and behold, Stefan Frei was once again on the bench. What? Who is Joe Bendik? Why is he starting every game? More importantly...why is he performing exceptionally? Did Portland give us a starting quality goalkeeper?

Yup. Looks like it.

One start became five, five became 20, and by the end of the season, Bendik played 33 games, starting 33 of those, picking up nearly 3000 minutes of action in his first year with Toronto FC. He dealt with 139 shots and made 90 saves, middle of the pack stuff for a keeper in his first full season as a starter. He conceded 46 goals for Toronto FC this season. He was no Nick Rimando, but at the same time, Bendik had a higher save percentage (65 per cent) than Dan Kennedy (63 per cent) so that's something.

Here's the thing - looking at the stats, Toronto FC's keeper pales in comparison to some of the league regulars. However, Bendik made some pretty big, game-winning saves. Also keeping in mind the fact that Toronto FC's back line consistently underwent changes throughout the year, and it's hard to fault Bendik for his early season performances. The club just kept on conceding in the dying minutes from poor defending. Once Steven Caldwell joined the team, the defensive side of Toronto FC seemed to change, too. The numbers don't do Bendik justice, unfortunately. Still, he performed when required, and it's not a surprise, really. Before Bendik made his way to Portland, he played in Norway, with Sogndal Fotball. It's just surprising that no one saw his potential earlier.

I'd say that while the draft pick was the obvious benefit in the Kocic/Johnson trade, the Bendik acquisition has proved to be more important to Toronto FC.

Off the field, Bendik is a character, I'll say that. I equate interviewing him to talking to one of those stone heads on Easter Island, if they could talk. Bendik doesn't give you a 100-word answer when one word will suffice. Also, he's ridiculously tall in person. My arm hurts from holding the voice recorder up that high. That's a good thing, I think. We need a tall keeper.

Stefan Frei is out at Toronto FC. Three years ago, that would be a travesty. Joe Bendik has made that transition a breeze, and for that, we thank you.

Duncan: 3. It wasn't all sunshine and puppies for Bendik this year, there were a few dodgy goals allowed, this one sticks out, and his distribution was pretty terrible, (though he must have been following orders with all the long balls, no way Nelsen would have let him do it that often for so long if he didn't want him to). But generally it was. Frei's broken nose gave him an in and his small contract on a club desperate for any value for money contract it could get meant he was going to get a good chance, and he took it. It was a very good year and I've no qualms whatsoever about him being TFC's starting goalie next year. Let's hope when it comes time for a raise he doesn't turn himself into Stefan Frei and open the door for himself to be undercut by another cheap guy.

But Armen's given you the narrative of the season, I'll go for details. The goalkeeper is always the easiest to come up with a highlight package for, so that's what I'll do, by way of a save of the year contest, there's a poll below for you to vote. Going through options, there were a lot of saves, perhaps the most impressive washow many of them looked fairly straight forward, Bendik's good at positioning, and coming out to challenge forwards and having the ball bounce off him, almost like a hockey goalie really. Anyway, here we go, in chronological order, apologies for the adverts, I take no responsibility for any sudden urges to buy microsoft products, or Jettas, just be thankful it's not Zakuani rapping in all of these still.

03/30 v LA Galaxy, Mike Magee

05/04 v Colorado, Nick LaBrocca

07/17 v Chivas, Erick Torres

08/10 v Seattle, Clint Dempsey

08/17 v Columbus, Dominic Oduro

08/24 v DC United, Dwayne de Rosario

08/30 v New England, Diego Fagundez

09/11 v Chicago, Quincy Amarikwa

09/14 v New York, Bradley Wright Phillips

10/26 v Montreal, Davy Arnaud

Dave: 2. I may have my doubts about Bendik and his ability moving forward as the club's number 1 goalkeeper but he contributions this season are beyond question. He did make a number of key saves in close games this season which probably added a few points to TFC's lowly total. His play was a real pleasant surprise as I was not expecting much from him when he came over from Portland and even if he still can't find a teammate with his passes he has to be one of the few bright spots from this season.

James: 2. Dislodged fan favourtie Frei, stepping into the #1 role and not looking back - not the finished article, even if he stays on level still a solid starter.

Kristin: 2. I'm sure that Joe is No. 1 for most and if not for Matias that is where I too would have ranked him. Was he the best keeper in the league this year? No. Was he better than Frei? Maybe. But regardless he stepped into a difficult situation and rose to the occasion pretty much every game. Do those kicks need work? Hell yes (psst Joe - don't be afraid of the short pass!)

a_miller16: Got his chance with Frei's pre-season injury and ran with it. Played very well and kept scores respectable in many games. He'll be the starting GK next year. American and on a good contract as well on of Payne's better moves.

Angus Chung: Worth every single penny of his 40k contract. There are areas of his game which could be improved upon (e.g. passing and distribution) but overall, he played pretty well as keeper given that he did not exactly have a great defense around him.

Bruce Harding. Was solid all season, kept us in a lot of games. Happy with him being our number 1 next season.

Ferantez He benched Frei, the fan favourite, and very few fans can reasonably argue with that decision. Did great.

Henry for PM: salary cap friendly starting goalie

Hoddle: Player of the Year in my view

Jon Spratt: Totally exceeded any expectations. The odd howler but mostly an excellent shot stopper. Distribution could improve (like Kocic before him).

Killinghurst: He provided solid goaltending and a few spectacular saves. Was extremely consistent throughout the year and although he needs to work on his distribution, you can't teach size.

Mark_HSV: I'm not sure if Bendik is better than Frei, but he was given the chance to be No. 1 and he took it. A decent keeper and very consistent player for TFC.

Michaelvee: Bendik was pretty obviously the best player we had all year. A cheap, consistent, young #1 who made up for an often lacklustre backline.

Prizby: Made it very easy to pretty much forget about Frei in 2013 and probably very easy to forget Frei going forward; he's the man of the future and he's only 16 days younger than me #ImGettingOLD

Red Wine Roz: Never thought anyone could replace Frei, but he's impressed me.

Robert Snider: Was ok. Defensively did his job so you can't fault him on that but yeah, his distribution stank. May have been that he didn't feel he could trust his back line for most of year so he felt he had to play long ball - that didn't help his stats. A bargain at the price and no come down from Frei.

Shel soccer Don: A good keeper on a great contract. The short side goal from outside the 18 yard box brought his rating down for me.

The Yorkies: Super Pickle is the # 1 going forward. Dill with it. Has to work on distribution.

Tim: Big Saves and saved our bacon more than once. Just needs to work on his passing and leadership.

Yohan: Best moneyball GK in MLS right now, except for Clint Irwin with Rapids. Distribution needs to be worked on, but he has proven he can make the key stops to keep TFC in the game, even though he looks like he's asleep half the time. Philly away game is a particular favourite Bendik moment.

Number 2: Matias Laba

Number 4: Jonathan Osorio

Full Top 36 Countdown

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