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2017 Orlando City Season in Review: Joe Bendik



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)

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Lion Links: 12/2/23

The Pride sign a new keeper, the MLS playoffs continue, the USWNT is in action, and more.



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Salutations on this satisfactory Saturday, Mane Landers. We’re heading for the home stretch of 2023, and what a year it has been. Make sure that you are catching all of our Season in Review articles for both the Orlando City and Orlando Pride players. Things tend to happen personnel-wise in December, so be prepared. Until then, let’s check out today’s links. But first, let’s wish a happy 26th birthday to Orlando City goalkeeper Mason Stajduhar.

Pride Sign a New Keeper

The Orlando Pride signed Finnish goalkeeper Sofia Manner from FC Honka of Finland’s top flight, the Kansallinen Liiga. With the addition of Manner, the Pride have four keepers on the roster heading into 2024. Manner is expected to compete for the starting job, though the same could be said of both Anna Moorhouse and Carly Nelson. It is unlikely all four netminders will be on the Pride once the season starts. Manner has international experience and was the best keeper in the Kansallinen Liiga.

MLS Conference Finals Tonight

I wouldn’t blame you if you decided not to watch the remainder of the MLS playoffs after last weekend’s disappointing result. However, if you are going see how it all sorts out, you might want to study up on the matches. We’re all too aware that the Columbus Crew will be facing FC Cincinnati to see which club wins the Eastern Conference. Over on the other side, LAFC will take on the Houston Dynamo to determine the Western Conference champion.

MLS Player Moves

As the playoffs come to a close, the signings and transfers around the league are ramping up, but who will stay and who will go? New York Red Bulls midfielder Dru Yearwood is heading to Nashville SC as reported by The Athletic (paywalled) since Dax McCarthy is out of contract there and won’t be returning.

The Philadelphia Union have signed midfielder Jesus Bueno to a new three-year contract through 2026 with an option for 2027. Meanwhile, Gustavo Bou won’t be returning to the New England Revolution. So, um…maybe he’d like to come south and score goals for Orlando City rather than against the Lions? Before anyone gets too crazy, it should be on a non-DP deal.

USWNT Hosts China

The USWNT is back in friendly action against China this afternoon in Ft. Lauderdale at 3 p.m. and then on Tuesday, Dec. 5 at 8 p.m. in Frisco TX. Interim head coach Twila Kilgore will be in charge since newly-named Head Coach Emma Hayes doesn’t start until the 2023-2024 Women’s Super League season in England is over. Hayes is the current head coach of Chelsea FC Women’s. This is the first match between the two teams since 2018, and a lot has changed. The USWNT has been very solid on defense in 2023, allowing only two goals back in the SheBelieves Cup.

Free Kicks

  • If you haven’t heard of a “sin bin,” think of it like a penalty box in hockey. The idea has been getting a runout in lower league matches in English football by the International Football Association Board (IFAB) with some good results. It’s not yet confirmed, but MLS may institute the change in 2024. The idea is to reduce dissension by having a player sit for 10 minutes during a match. Tottenham manager Ange Postecoglou has spoken out against the idea. What do you think of the concept?
  • Real Salt Lake has promoted Kurt Schmid to sporting director and interim chief soccer officer.
  • Cristiano Ronaldo will have to deal with a $1 billion class-action lawsuit for his role in promoting NFTs for Binance. Maybe that’s why he signed for Al-Nassr in the Saudi Pro League?
  • Speaking of the Saudi Pro League, it looks like Mohamed Salah may not be leaving EPL side Liverpool anytime soon. The prolific striker is looking for a new contract to stay at Anfield.
  • I’ll take things Pedro Gallese would not do for $400, Alex.

That will do it for today. Please go forth and enjoy your weekend!

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Orlando City

2023 Orlando City Season in Review: Kyle Smith

Let’s look back at The Accountant’s fifth MLS season.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Fullback Kyle Smith was originally signed on Dec. 21, 2018 when James O’Connor was Orlando City’s head coach. He proved to be a valuable Swiss Army knife-type player and earned a new contract on March 29, 2021 through the 2022 season with a 2023 club option. Orlando City picked up his 2023 option at the end of the 2022 season but then signed Smith to a new one-year contract for 2023 just weeks later with an option for 2024.

Let’s have a look back at The Accountant’s fifth MLS season.

Statistical Breakdown

Smith appeared in 25 matches during the 2023 regular season, starting 17 times and logging 1,501 minutes. It was his third-most appearances but his second-most minutes since making the jump from Louisville City to MLS ahead of the 2019 season. He scored one goal and assisted on three others, setting a new career high in the latter category. Smith attempted seven shots, putting two on target. He passed at a 78.7% clip, including nine key passes, five successful crosses, and 36 successful long passes. Defensively, Smith recorded 35 tackles, 16 interceptions, 40 clearances, and two blocked shots. He drew eight fouls while committing 20 and was booked five times on the year.

The 31-year-old appeared in all three of Orlando City’s three playoff matches — both off the bench — and logged 65 minutes. He did not score a goal or assist on one, attempting one shot, which he put on frame. He passed at an 82.5% rate in the postseason. He posted two tackles and a clearance defensively. He did not commit a foul or draw one and he wasn’t booked.

In the 2023 Concacaf Champions League, Smith came off the bench in the first leg at Tigres, playing minutes, passing at just a 25% rate (small sample size), did not attempt a shot, did not draw or concede a foul, and was not booked.

During Leagues Cup play, Smith appeared in all three of Orlando’s matches (all starts), logging 150 minutes. He did not contribute to a goal or attempt a shot in the tournament, committing four fouls and earning two yellow cards. Smith did not play in Orlando City’s lone U.S. Open Cup match.

Best Game

Smith’s best match of 2023 came in Orlando City’s 1-1 home draw against Atlanta United on May 27, and not only because that’s when he scored his lone goal of the season, although that doesn’t hurt. El Soldado started and went the full 90 minutes. He fired two shots on the night, putting one on target (and in the net), and passed at an exceptional 90.3% rate on 31 attempts, which was his third-best passing night of the season. He completed two successful long balls on two attempts, chipping in four clearances (second only to Antonio Carlos), a tackle, and an interception on the night. His big moment came in the 30th minute, when a well-worked attack up the left kicked out to him on the right side. Smith was perfectly positioned and made no mistake in putting the Lions ahead 1-0.

Although the match was spoiled by a late equalizer, Smith turned in one of his best performances since joining Orlando City and if not for his goal, the outcome might have been a lot more somber than a 1-1 draw.

2023 Final Grade

Smith received a composite score of 6 out of 10 for his 2023 performance from The Mane Land staff. This is an improvement over the 5.5 he earned last year but slightly below the 6.5 he earned for the 2021 season. Previously, Smith was given a 5.5 in 2020 and he got the same score after the 2019 season. The staff awarded Smith for his effort, versatility, and willingness to do whatever it takes to win. He is the quintessential team player. But beyond all of the above, he simply played well most of his minutes on the pitch. At his age, he’s going to struggle to contain the league’s speediest wing players, particularly when playing on his weaker left side, but his ability to adapt is unquestioned. The perfect example of that was when he was tucking inside from his fullback spot earlier in the season to add an additional player to the midfield and freeing Facundo Torres up to have more space in which to operate on the right side.

2024 Outlook

Smith’s return may ultimately rest with whether or not Oscar Pareja stays on with the Lions, although a decision might need to be made earlier than that, as the club must make a decision on his option. Pareja has valued Smith’s versatility and work ethic over the last few years, and with more competitions and matches than ever before, it’s always good to have a depth player who can plug and play in multiple positions. He played his second-most MLS minutes in 2023, so he’s still seeing the field plenty.

If I had to guess, and this section is for exactly that, I’d say the club will either exercise his option or sign him to a new one-year deal with an option year for 2025. However, what complicates matters is that Smith is over age 24 and has played five MLS seasons, which means he’s eligible for free agency. If he’s back in 2024, I would expect him to again be a key backup at both fullback positions, getting some spot starts in U.S. Open Cup or when fixture congestion is heavy.

Previous Season in Review Articles (Date Posted)

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2023 Orlando City Season in Review: Abdi Salim

We continue our Orlando City player retrospectives with a look at one of the Lions’ 2023 draft picks.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City used its third pick of the 2023 MLS SuperDraft to select Abdi Salim with the 17th overall pick. Salim played his college soccer at Syracuse and the Lions picked up the center back to help with depth at a position that didn’t really have a ton of established bodies behind Antonio Carlos, Robin Jansson, and Rodrigo Schlegel. He was then signed to a one-year deal in February that contained three option years for the 2024, 2025, and 2026 seasons.

Let’s have a look at Salim’s first season as a professional.

Statistical Breakdown

Salim made his Major League Soccer debut at home against FC Cincinnati on March 4. It was Salim’s only start of the year and he went the full 90 minutes as the Lions drew 0-0 against the eventual Supporters’ Shield winners. He made two other appearances in away games against D.C. United and Charlotte FC, both of which ended as 1-1 draws as he finished with 148 MLS minutes on the year.

Defensively he recorded four tackles, four interceptions, three clearances, a block, and won two aerial duels. He did not record any offensive statistics, but was solid with his distribution as he averaged 87.3% passing accuracy and completed one cross and one long ball each.

Given that it was only his first season as a professional, he spent the bulk of his time in MLS NEXT Pro with Orlando City B. With the Young Lions he played in 16 matches, starting 14 of them and racking up 1,162 minutes. He finished with 11 interceptions and a tackle while committing seven fouls and drawing 11 and picking up one yellow card. Salim took nine shots, put two of them on target, and scored a goal on each one he got on frame. He passed very well, finishing with a 90.2% success rate, two key passes, and 18 long balls.

Best Game

The honor of his best game goes to his first ever professional appearance, when he started and played the whole game in the aforementioned 0-0 draw against FC Cincinnati. Salim finished with three tackles, three clearances, and an interception while passing with 87% accuracy, completing a long ball on his only attempt, and helping the Lions keep a clean sheet at home. He was a bit shaky at first, as he was deployed as the third center back in a three-man back line, but he settled down in the second half and finished with a grade of 5.5 out of 10 from Nic Josey.

2023 Final Grade

Given that Salim didn’t crack 200 minutes and we require a minimum of 450 to award a grade for the season, he receives an incomplete for the 2023 season. He did some good things when down with Orlando City B, and filled in well enough with the senior side when called upon, but we simply need to see more of him in order to figure out what he’s really able to do.

2024 Outlook

It’s likely that Salim will spend more time with Orlando City B next season, but with no one seemingly laying claim to the fourth center back position, he should have a chance to show what he’s capable of during preseason. He seemed to be in competition with Thomas Williams for the back up spot not occupied by Rodrigo Schlegel, but he may have moved past him in the pecking order as he made more appearances than the Homegrown signing, both with OCSC and OCB. Regardless, as an inexpensive young player with potential, there’s no reason to think he won’t be here next year.

Previous Season in Review Articles (Date Posted)

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