When Joe Bendik walked off the field after the Philadelphia Union’s 2-1 win over DC United on Saturday night, he didn’t realize it was the first time he had won a game he started in three years until he was greeted by teammates in the locker room.
“I got guys saying like oh this hasn’t happened since Quinn (Sullivan) was in diapers and I was like, what are they talking about and then I realized,” Bendik said. “You gotta have a strong mentality to play in this game for a long time.”
Though it was the 32-year-old’s 181st start in MLS, it was just his second since arriving in Chester in July 2019 via trade with Columbus Crew (for a second round draft pick).
His only previous start for the Union — against Columbus Crew last November — was a 2-1 loss on the road where he was heavily criticized by fans for his positioning conceding an 84th minute winner.
Prior to his arrival, Bendik was known as a frequent opponent who could only watch a couple big late Union free kick goals go by him: Kleberson’s goal against Toronto FC and Tranquillo Barnetta’s goal against Orlando City.
“It’s definitely a bit of a transition for me going from starting for four or five years and then all of a sudden, you know, can’t find but two games a year,” Bendik said. “It feels good to win.”
Bendik had to make two big stops in the game to secure all three points. The one goal he conceded was a penalty converted by Yamil Asad after Sergio Santos was whistled for a foul in the box. The Georgia native subbed into the game last week against the New York Red Bulls after Matt Freese was sent off. He had to face a penalty right away that he was unable to keep out from Patryk Klimala in the 1-1 draw.
“Really proud of Joe Bendik, getting a big win for us,” head coach Jim Curtin said. “(He) made a few key saves in the first half. Obviously, it’s a difficult spot to come into a unique spot for sure but he stepped up and contributed in a big way.”
Andre Blake’s absence for the Gold Cup with Jamaica and the red card suspension Freese was serving necessitated Bendik starting but now with Freese returning Curtin will have a decision to make for the game at Orlando City on Thursday. Curtin also has Greg Ranjitsingh, who was on the bench Saturday night, available.