CHESTER, PA. — Joe Bendik had to wait 1,169 days to celebrate his latest victory as an MLS goalkeeper, but the veteran shot-stopper delivered a clutch performance as the Philadelphia Union moved to second place in the Eastern Conference.
Bendik filled in between the posts for Jim Curtin’s side on Saturday and helped the defending Supporters’ Shield winners to a 2-1 win over DC United at Subaru Park. It was Bendik’s first regular season win since May 6, 2018 when he was still a part of the Columbus Crew, and it might not be his last this month as he aims to keep the starting job while Andre Blake remains on international duty.
“Joe did excellent tonight,” Curtin said. “We’ve called upon so many players to step up their game this season and every one of them has. Joe is part of that group and his situation is unique because it’s the most hardest to come in and deliver. He made some good saves early in the match to keep us in it and they were important because we were playing a bit slow. Couldn’t be more proud of him and happy that we got three points.”
Bendik came into the starting lineup due to Blake’s involvement at the ongoing Concacaf Gold Cup with Jamaica and Matt Freese’s one-match suspension following his red card in a 1-1 draw with the New York Red Bulls on July 8.
The 32-year-old did what he needed to do to help the Union get out of an early funk in Chester and eventually grind their way to three points at home. Bendik’s reaction save on Yamil Asad’s effort in the first half was pushed off the crossbar to keep the Union ahead following a Sergio Santos opener.
— PhilaUnion🛡 (@PhilaUnion) July 18, 2021
Julian Gressel’s long-range shot before halftime look destined to nestle into the bottom-left corner, but Bendik dove to his right and repelled the midfielder’s shot. Bendik didn’t need to make another save the rest of the way, but his veteran experience helped the Union shut the door after a 90 minute weather delay.
“I am so proud of Joe for his performance tonight and he is a guy who gives his all every day in training,” striker Kacper Przybylko said about Bendik. “He is always working hard with Andre [Blake] and Matt [Freese] and they all push each other to get better. We have a good group of goalkeepers for sure.”
“It’s a fun environment here and I enjoy the opportunities of continuing to play and working with a good group of people,” Bendik said. “This team overall has a strong mentality throughout it and I feel that has helped me as a player.”
Bendik joined the Union in 2019 from the Columbus Crew after mainly being used as a back-up by the Eastern Conference club. Despite having 175 combined appearances between the Portland Timbers, Toronto FC, and Orlando City, Bendik arrived in Philadelphia as a veteran presence alongside 2020 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Andre Blake and a rising young player in Freese.
Bendik made two appearances down the stretch in 2020 for the Union while Blake recovered from a hand injury, but remained a strong presence on and off the field for the team. Now after a strong outing on Saturday night, Bendik could remain the No. 1 heading into road matches against Orlando City and Inter Miami this week, especially with Blake set to miss another week or so with Gold Cup matches.
Whether or not he starts is something that Curtin will have to consider, but Bendik has enjoyed his time with the Union regardless of playing time.
“You have to have a strong mentality especially when things might not be going the way you hope,” Bendik said. “Its been a transition for sure because I was starting for five years in other places and then I come here and not playing a whole lot, but I feel privileged to work with a guy like Andre every day and also help groom Matt for his chances. It’s a strong group of guys and I am happy to be here.”