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2017 Orlando City Season in Review: Joe Bendik

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Joe Bendik came into his second season with the Lions firmly holding the 2017 No. 1 goalkeeper spot with no one behind him really threatening to overtake him. Neither Josh Saunders, an aging veteran backup, nor Earl Edwards Jr., who was wisely sent to Orlando City B, gave Bendik much worry on who would be between the pipes all year long.

Our Gavin Ewbank hit the nail on the head last year with his 2017 outlook after the 2016 season:

Orlando City has found its goalkeeper moving forward. There’s no reason to think Bendik won’t be back next season as the No. 1 heading into the preseason. If Jason Kreis can fix up the back line this winter, Bendik will be much better off for having to work less, which of course is best for all parties involved. That’s the biggest key for the Lions.

In a year that had a lot of folks thinking playoffs — especially after the hot 6-1 start with three shutouts — Joe had an up-and-down season behind a back line that could not find consistency. An MLS Save of the Week winner three times this season, Bendik certainly performed admirably at times. But as his back line began to fail due to center back Jonathan Spector’s injury and Kreis’ inability to find a pairing that worked — despite nine different center back pairings rotating in and out — Bendik and the Lions were never able to find a rhythm on defense, leading to shaky goals throughout the back half of the year.

Before we get into his season grade, I think we need to give Bendik his props on a ridiculous save. While it was an outcome from a personal mistake, this save showed the drive of a guy that wouldn't quit even when it could have been easy to do so.

On a rainy Wednesday night in Orlando, the Lions faced D.C. United and were up, 1-0. A poor giveaway by Jose Aja about 30 yards from goal gave United the chance it was looking for. While Bendik initially made the wrong decision and charged out of his box with a wild slide tackle, he quickly bounced up to sprint back to the goal, and I won't spoil what happened next.

Statistical Breakdown

To no surprise, Bendik started 33 of the 34 matches for the Lions this season. His lone miss was the final match of the season against Philadelphia while going through MLS concussion protocol. Those 33 matches tied Joe with Seattle Sounders’ Stefan Frei for second in total minutes played, behind New York Red Bulls’ Luis Robles and Columbus Crew’s Zack Steffen, who played in all 34 regular season matches.

It was a busy year for Bendik to say the least. He faced the second-most shots in the league (173), only one behind Minnesota United’s Bobby Shuttleworth’s 174. Out of that 173, Bendik produced a league-high 118 saves, leading to a 68.2% save percentage. That save percentage puts him eighth for goalkeepers who started over 14 matches. If you were to cut out Brad Guzan, Bendik still sits seventh among starters with more than 24 matches (the number Bill Hamid started).

With seven shutouts, Bendik had more than notable names like Hamid and Tim Howard and ended up tied for 12th in the league in that category.

Unfortunately for Joe, the good news stops there, as he ended up giving up the second-most goals in MLS (52) this season only behind Shuttleworth (60). That led to a 1.58 goals-against average (GAA), which would put him 16th of the 18 goalkeepers that started over 24 matches.

Best Game

For Bendik’s best game we go all the way back to the first match of the season against New York City FC. Everything circling around that match could have anyone’s nerves twitching. From it being opening day, to the first home match in the new stadium, against our expansion “rival,” and certainly in a year where we were all hoping to start off strong after a rough 2016, there was a lot on the players’ minds.

With a grade of 8.5 and MotM honors, it was a pretty easy decision in a game where Bendik showed everything he had. Facing seven shots on goal, with six saves, Bendik had to pull out a variety of saves, from breakaways to point-blank range stops, to give the Lions their first shutout of the season.

Two saves stood out from the rest, in the 32nd minute, Bendik was forced to race off his line and face Jack Harrison in a one-on-one situation 16 yards away from goal, and he wonderfully stretched out to make a great save to his right.

In the other big save in the game that earned him MLS Save of the Week honors, Bendik made an unbelievable save in the 53rd minute, moving to his right in a crowd to deny Harrison again — this time just seven yards from goal — to keep City’s lead.

Final 2017 Grade

The staff here at The Mane Land gave Bendik a composite grade of 7.5 on the year. While that’s lower than the 8 he received last year, we can argue that expectations were much higher in the season for Bendik in his second year in purple, with an improved defensive front in three out of the four positions.

Additionally, Bendik seemed to succumb to the fatigue that can often happen in a long, rough season in which a goalkeeper is getting blasted week in and week out. This leads to sloppy mistakes and goals that just shouldn't happen.

In no way did Bendik have a poor year, and in many ways he was Orlando’s best player this season. But it takes a lot to be locked in every week and we felt that he waned over the course of the year.

2018 Outlook

This is a very interesting question as Bendik will finally face a challenger for the No. 1 shirt next season in Earl Edwards Jr.. The Landlord, as he’s affectionately called, had a banner year for OCB and in no way should that final MLS regular season match vs. Philadelphia be held against him. With better athleticism and technical play (from his feet) from Edwards, Bendik is going to need a strong off-season and consistent play to keep one of the USL’s hottest young prospects at bay.

If he wins his spot, I definitely look for everything in the defensive third to improve, which will in turn improve Bendik’s play. I’ve said it a ton already, but it’s damn hard to be at a high level for 34 matches and you need to have that defensive consistency.

The battle for the No. 1 shirt is what I’m most looking forward to this off-season and I can't wait to see who comes out on top.


Previous 2017 Player Season in Review Posts (Date Published)

Orlando City

2023 Orlando City Season in Review: Alex Freeman

We start our Orlando City player reviews with a look at a Homegrown fullback who made his MLS debut this season.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City B

Orlando City signed fullback Alex Freeman to a Homegrown Player contract on February 15, 2022. He became the Lions’ 12th Homegrown signing and his deal runs through the 2025 season with a club option for 2026, but the youngster did not see action in Major League Soccer last season. With the departure of Ruan, there was an opportunity for Freeman to win a job with the first team in camp but he wasn’t quite ready to make the jump, instead playing an important role with Orlando City B throughout the 2023 MLS NEXT Pro season.

Let’s take a look back at Freeman’s 2023 campaign.

Statistical Breakdown

Freeman made his MLS debut on April 29 in a 2-0 home win over the LA Galaxy. It was not just his debut with the first team, but it was also his only appearance with the senior squad in 2023, although he did make the substitutes’ bench a few times after that. Officially, he logged only one minute, entering in the 93rd minute. He was only on the pitch a matter of seconds, so it’s unsurprising that he registered nothing on the stats sheet.

The son of former NFL receiver Antonio Freeman, Alex starred with OCB in 2023. In MLS NEXT Pro play, Freeman appeared in 24 of OCB’s 28 matches, starting 22, and logging 1,855 minutes. He finished tied for third on the squad in goals (4), adding three assists and passing at a 79.1% success rate. Freeman attempted 25 shots, putting 11 on target, and contributed 10 key passes. He committed 22 fouls, drew 27 on the opposition, and was booked four times. He also started OCB’s playoff match at Columbus, playing 89 minutes in the Young Lions’ 2-1 road loss. Freeman didn’t contribute a goal or assist or attempt a shot in the match, but he passed at an 88% rate, created one scoring chance, and committed one foul.

Best Game

With only one MLS appearance to his credit, the default best game for Freeman came on April 29 in Orlando City’s 2-0 home win over the LA Galaxy. Freeman didn’t even officially touch the ball in the game, but it’s not every day a teenager gets to play in an MLS match, and I’m sure it was a special moment for him. It was certainly a milestone in his professional soccer career.

2023 Final Grade

As Freeman fell well short of the minimum 450 minutes played mark to receive a rating on our 1-10 scale, The Mane Land has no choice but to mark his grade as incomplete for the 2023 season. There are areas of Freeman’s game that need a bit of refining, but at the same time, it’s easy to see why he landed a Homegrown contract, why Orlando City would find him an intriguing prospect, and why he’s been getting called up by the United States for U-20 international duty. His attacking presence was huge for OCB in 2023 and he was one of the key players that led the Young Lions to the postseason.

2024 Outlook

I would expect Freeman to get more seasoning at OCB in 2024, although he’ll be given opportunities in preseason camp to show whether he’s closed the gap on the likes of Michael Halliday and Kyle Smith (assuming both return). If the club moves on from both Halliday and Smith, it’s not hard to picture Freeman starting the season providing depth at right back for the first team. Having just turned 19 in August, Freeman has a lot of potential and he should start to unlock that within the next year or so.


This is the first of our 2023 Orlando City Season in Review articles. Every player who played minutes this past season and who finished the year on the club roster will be reviewed (exceptions may be made for players let go when the club officially announces its roster moves). Players who logged fewer than 450 minutes (combined regular season plus playoffs, Concacaf Champions League, U.S. Open Cup, and Leagues Cup) will receive a composite score between 1 and 10 as determined by a panel of The Mane Land writers, while those who did not reach that threshold will receive an incomplete grade.

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 11/29/23

Orlando Pride players called up by Brazil, MLS announces 2023 Best XI, latest MLS roster moves, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Hello, Mane Landers I hope all is well down in Florida. I’ve been very busy working throughout the holiday weekend at Under Armour. This week I’ll be working at Wrigley Field for Winterland while getting ready to cover high school wrestling tomorrow night. There is plenty to cover today, so let’s get to the links.

Pride Players Called Up By Brazil for Friendlies

Orlando Pride defender Rafaelle and forwards Marta and Adriana have been called up to the Brazil Women’s National Team for its upcoming friendlies.

Brazil will play two matches against Japan on Nov. 30 and Dec. 3 in Sao Paulo before playing Nicaragua on Dec. 6 at Estadio Fonte Luminosa in Araraquara.

MLS Announces the 2023 Best XI

Major League Soccer announced its 2023 Best XI, recognizing the league’s top players at each position. There were no Orlando City players selected for the team and eight players received the honor for the first time. Those players are St. Louis City’s Roman Burki and Tim Parker, FC Cincinnati defender Matt Miazga, Atlanta United duo Thiago Almada and Giorgos Giakoumakis, Houston Dynamo midfielder Hector Herrera, LAFC’s Denis Bouanga, and Columbus Crew forward Cucho Hernandez. Nashville SC’s Hany Mukhtar made the Best XI for the third consecutive time, while teammate Walker Zimmerman was named to it for the fifth time. MLS MVP Luciano Acosta of FC Cincinnati rounds out the list.

Latest MLS Off-season Roster Moves

The Colorado Rapids announced their latest roster changes as they prepare for the the 2024 season under new Head Coach Chris Armas. The club exercised its options for defender Andrew Gutman, midfielder Ralph Priso, and forward Calvin Harris. The Rapids declined contract offers to seven players, with the most notable names being defender Steven Beitashour and goalkeeper William Yarbrough, although the Rapids are in discussions about re-signing Yarbrough. Elsewhere, the New England Revolution exercised the permanent transfer option on forward Tomas Chancalay, signing him to a Designated Player contract through 2026, with a club option for the 2027 season.

UEFA Champions League Roundup

Champions League action returned in Europe, as we get close to wrapping up the group stage in a couple of weeks. Manchester City overcame a two-goal deficit to beat RB Leipzig 3-2 and win Group G. Newcastle United had a chance to qualify for the round of 16 but gave up a late penalty to Paris Saint-Germain, which Kylian Mbappe converted to end the match in a 1-1 draw. Borussia Dortmund beat AC Milan 3-1 to book its spot in the knockout stage. PSG, Newcastle, and AC Milan are all still alive in Group F heading into the final matchday in December. Shakhtar Donetsk won 1-0 against Royal Antwerp and also still has a shot to advance on the final matchday. Lazio, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, and Young Boys all won their respective matches as well. Today’s matches include Manchester United on the road against Galatasaray, Real Madrid taking on Napoli, and Sevilla facing off with PSV Eindhoven.

Free Kicks

  • Concacaf has announced that BMO Stadium, Dignity Health Sports Park, Shell Energy Stadium, and Snapdragon Stadium will be the four venues that will host matches for the 2024 Concacaf W Gold Cup.
  • Barcelona midfielder Gavi will be sidelined for up to 10 months after undergoing knee surgery after suffering a torn ACL in his right knee.
  • The International Football Association Board approved a trial for sin bins, meaning players punished for dissent or specific tactical offense would be temporarily removed from the match for a set amount of minutes.
  • You have got to see this goal from Cwrt Rawlin FC in the Welsh seventh division.

That will do it for me today, Mane Landers. Enjoy your Wednesday and I’ll see you next time.

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 11/28/23

Luciano Acosta named MVP, Americans in action, scheduling news for U.S. national teams, and more.

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Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Happy Tuesday, everyone. I’m dragging a little today after having an extended period of time off for the Thanksgiving holiday, but there’s no rest for the wicked and the only way out is through. With that being the case, let’s get into today’s news.

Luciano Acosta Wins MLS MVP

In a piece of news that plenty of people likely saw coming from several miles away, Luciano Acosta has been named Major League Soccer’s Most Valuable Player. Acosta racked up 34 goal contributions during the regular season, finishing the 2023 campaign with 17 goals and 14 assists as the driving force behind his team’s run to the Supporters’ Shield. He was voted the best player in the league by quite some margin and won the award in a landslide, taking 60.37% of the votes to Denis Bouanga’s 14.97% and Thiago Almada’s 6.46%.

American Stars in Midweek Action

There are a number of United States Men’s National Team players that will be in action this week, with several UEFA Champions League clashes highlighting the viewing slate. Christian Pulisic, Yunus Musah and AC Milan will face Giovanni Reyna’s Borussia Dortmund today in a game with huge ramifications for both teams. Malik Tillman, Ricardo Pepi, and Sergino Dest may play in PSV Eindhoven’s match with Sevilla tomorrow, and a win would likely go a long way to securing a place in the Round of 16. Additionally on Wednesday, Brenden Aaronson and Union Berlin have a chance to make a big move towards a place in the Europa League, as a win over Braga would leapfrog the German club into third place in Group C.

USMNT & USWNT Scheduling News

The USMNT will open its 2024 slate of games with a match against Slovenia on Jan. 20 in San Antonio. The match will fall outside of an international window, meaning that the January camp roster will largely be made up of domestic-based players. The USMNT has faced Slovenia twice before, with the most recent time being a 3-2 win in Ljubljana courtesy of a Jozy Altidore penalty kick.

While we already knew that the United States Women’s National Team would play China PR on Dec. 5 in Frisco, we now know that one of the team’s legends will be honored before the game. The U.S. Soccer Federation has announced that former Orlando Pride defender Ali Krieger, who stated in March that she will retire following the NWSL season, will be honored before the match. Krieger played 108 games for the USWNT and is a two-time World Cup winner with the team.

Notable Women’s Players to Miss International Matches

A pair of high profile women’s players will miss upcoming international games. First up, Sam Kerr will not feature in Australia’s back-to-back friendlies against Canada due to a foot injury. Kerr has struggled with injuries this year and her availability was limited during this summer’s World Cup.

Alexia Putellas will miss Spain’s two Nations League matches against Sweden and Italy after picking up a left knee injury. Putellas had missed Euro 2022 due to an ACL tear, but was back to help her side win the World Cup several months ago. Fortunately for Spain, the team is well positioned atop its group and has enough players in the squad that it shouldn’t feel her absence too keenly.

Free Kicks

  • A pair of Willian penalties and an early Alex Iwobi goal helped Fulham beat Wolverhampton, with American defenders Antonee Robinson and Tim Ream also starting.
  • New York Red Bulls forward Tom Barlow is reportedly headed to the Chicago Fire.

That’s all I’ve got for you this morning. Y’all stay safe out there.

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