Toronto FC: Former Players Come to Joe Bendik’s Defence


Former Toronto FC Players Defend Joe Bendik After Criticism From the Fans

If you go to see a Toronto FC game these days, you’re pretty much guaranteed a high-scoring affair. Of the 20 MLS teams, matches involving The Reds average the highest number of goals per game.

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Perhaps somewhat surprising, TFC leads the league in goals scored per game – albeit by the narrowest of margins over the LA Galaxy (1.682 – 1.680). However, they also have the dubious distinction of conceding the highest average number of goals per contest.

Interestingly, Toronto FC has seen both Chris Konopka and Joe Bendik start 11 games in goal this season. Konopka has conceded 16 goals, while Bendik has conceded 22.

The 30-year old Konopka also has the better record, going 5-3-3 in his 11 starts, compared to 4-6-1 by his teammate. Unfortunately, fair or not, this has resulted in Bendik being on the receiving end of a lot of criticism from Toronto FC supporters.

In fact, the 26-year old has been the number one fall guy in Toronto this season. Regardless of what he does, it’s just not good enough for the fans.

Aug 5, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto FC goalkeeper Joe Bendik (12) blocks a scoring attempt by Orlando City forward Cyle Larin (21) in the first half at BMO Field. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

This is quite a fall from grace, when you consider how popular Bendik was as recently as 2013, after he first arrived in Toronto. Filling in for an injured Stefan Frei, he earned strong praise for his abilities as a capable shot-stopper.

The question is, does the goalkeeper deserve all the abuse he has been receiving of late? Kurtis Larson of the Toronto Sun decided to speak to some former TFC players on the condition of anonymity, to get their opinion.

One player said: “He’s not even made too many mistakes, so I just don’t see where (the blame) is coming from.”

This was backed up by a former starter in Toronto: “(Some fans) find someone to blame every single thing on.

“Joe makes some huge saves and hardly ever makes a gaffe. He’s a good locker room guy, too.”

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The third player gave the most emotional response regarding the criticism: “It pisses me off when people kill him on every goal. He’s very solid and doesn’t make mistakes.”

While it’s good to hear former teammates come to Bendik’s defence, you could argue that they’re not exactly going to be objective. However, there are other ways of measuring his performances.

As Larson points out, the Marietta, Georgia native is nearer the top of the league in respect of shots faced per game (5.45). On the flip side, the top goalkeepers in MLS – such as David Ousted and Dan Kennedy – are dealing with less than four shots per game.

Larson also argues that Bendik’s poor save percentage isn’t a fair indicator, as it doesn’t take into account the quality of chances. However, while there is some merit in this, the quality of chances argument can theoretically work both ways, i.e. if a goalkeeper is letting tame shots get past him.

In that respect, there have been times this season, where the former Portland Timbers player can be quite rightly blamed for goals conceded. One of the most recent examples came just last week against Orlando City, although it fortunately didn’t end up costing Toronto FC, as they won the game 4-1.

On the flip side, there are likely just as many occasions when Bendik has saved his team. Who can forget his key stop last month, late in the game against the Columbus Crew, which allowed the Reds to secure a precious point?

Ultimately, Bendik shouldn’t escape criticism altogether. However, for Toronto FC supporters to continue making him the main target of their abuse is, quite frankly, ridiculous.

If this team is finally going to qualify for the playoffs, the fans need to get behind all of the players. As the team motto goes: “All for one”. Let’s try embracing it a bit more, shall we?

Next: Josh Williams brought in to boost TFC defence