Editorial Note: Originally it said this article was written by Mitchell Tierney. This is not true, it was written by Lev Yashin. We apologize for this editorial error.
Listen to this: Gred Sutton, Brian Edwards, Stefan Frei, Milos Kocic, Jon Conway, Julio Cesar, Kenny Stamatopoulos, Srdjan Djekanovic, David Monsalve, Chris Konopka, Alex Bono, Quillan Roberts and Joe Bendik. Never mind eight coaches fired in eight years, the names above clearly demonstrate the amount of turnover in the goalkeeping position for TFC over that same period.
Five, that I am aware of, are still playing professionally and three are using their experience to stay involved in the game. Stamatopoulos is playing in AIK, Monsalve plays for America De Cali in Colombia, Milos Kocic is playing for Győri ETO FC, Cesar plays for Benfica and of course Stefan Frei is with the Seattle Sounders. Edwards is coaching in a lower league and Djekanovic is coaching in college out west. John Conway, meanwhile, is the current goalkeeping coach here at TFC.
Only Sutton (34 games played for TFC), Frei (99), Kocic (37) and now Bendik (61) have stayed the course for any length of time likely due more to their resilience than anything else,considering the squads put together in years gone by.
In the past, the position of goalkeeper, just like that of fullback, has been a position that has been used in the cap world to save money by going for cheaper options rather than paying decent money. TFC have taken the cheaper route rather than going for or keeping quality goalkeepers such as Frei or Kocic. Imagine either of these two backstopping the current team.
Our current squad of goalkeepers consists of Bono, Roberts, Konopka and Bendik who are all quite capable in their own right but are not in the upper echelon of MLS.
Bono is the newest addition, being drafted out of college with glowing reports, even getting called into the American camp back in January. A top prospect maybe, but after his first outing last week in USL he showed that he is a work in progress and that the first team is a long way off for him. Learning to deal with the pressures and speed of the professional game will take him most of this season.
Roberts has been coming along at a steady pace but has been put on the back burner because of the introduction of Bono. He will have to excel in training, working twice as hard just to get his place in the squad. To me the game that he played in last season at BMO Field showed that he was almost ready to take the next step. My thoughts are that he should be the back-up keeper on the bench for match days with a view to being given a game or two to see just how ready he is.
Konopka I am sorry if I offend anyone reading this but a warm body that is no more than back-up for the USL team is about the level for this particular player. Nothing more to say about that.
Joe Bendik, our current number one, has survived for 61 appearances, since being part of the trade with the Portland Timbers. Taking his chance when it fell to him ,he has impressed the powers that be to the extent of a new contract and regular first team soccer. Being 6 foot 3 inches and over 200 pounds you would think that he would be able to command his area a lot better than he does, but unfortunately this is not the case. Too many close-range headed goals against means that his decision making in crossing situations is not what it should be whether it be corners or free kicks. Distribution is another area that is most frequently bought up when assessing his abilities and distribution is definitely not his strong point. Bendik is a good shot stopper and he has won several games for TFC on this ability alone. On any given day Joe Bendik is in the middle of the pack in MLS goalkeeping school which really means when a cheaper option comes along, then it will be 'goodbye' to Joe.
Very few teams in this league have long term goalkeepers such as Nick Rimando at Real Salt Lake. More's the pity.
We live in hope that as the coaching gets better, the quality of goalkeepers will rise. I am curious to know if others share my frustration with the goalkeeping situation.