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New Toronto FC goalie Bendik shows he is good with his hands

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The Canadian Press
12/28/2012 11:59:13 AM
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TORONTO -- Joe Bendik is good with his hands. Just check out his Twitter feed to see the custom "Halo" gaming table he built.

How good the recently acquired Toronto FC goalkeeper is on the soccer field is a bit of a mystery, however. Fans here have not had a chance to see him much.

The 23-year-old Georgia native, acquired in a Dec. 12 trade with Portland, saw action in five games (three starts) with the Timbers last season. Prior to that, he spent two seasons in Norway with Sogndal after a collegiate career at Clemson.

The trade sent Toronto forward Ryan Johnson and goalie Milos Kocic to Portland for Bendik, the third overall pick in the 2013 SuperDraft and allocation money.

Bendik, who enjoyed his time in the Pacific Northwest admits the deal left him "a little bit shocked."

"But after I had some time to think about it, I'm really looking forward to it and I'm kind of excited," he said. "I think it's a good opportunity and a good situation. Definitely a club that's going in the right direction."

Toronto FC, a league-worst 5-21-8 last season, is remaking its roster under new president and GM Kevin Payne.

Ten players have exited with Bendik one of four (joining defenders Danny Califf and Gale Agbossoumonde and forward Justin Braun) coming in. More are expected to sign on with 23-year-old Honduran midfielder Arnold Peralta possibly one of them. His Honduran club Club Deportivo Vida tweeted in Spanish that the move to TFC is "almost a given."

At Portland, 8-16-10 last season, Bendik backed up first Troy Perkins and then Jamaican international Donovan Ricketts after the Timbers swapped goalies with Montreal.

"I didn't get as much playing time maybe as I would like but I definitely got an opportunity to play," Bendik said. "The season didn't exactly pan out as I wanted it to but it was good for me, coming back after being away in Norway and finding a city that I actually enjoyed being in."

Bendik's sister -- a doctor who is now based out of New Zealand -- and her then-fiancee were living in Portland at the time.

In Toronto, he is expected to be cover for starter Stefan Frei, who missed almost all of last season with a leg injury.

The trade gives Kocic, who started 27 games in 2012, a chance to compete for the No. 1 position in Portland.

Bendik enjoyed his time in Norway, with Sogndal winning promotion in his first season. The second year started well with the American named starter but a poor outing coupled with an injury prompted his fortunes to change.

"But it was a good experience, for sure," he said. "Had maybe it been a different time in my career I would have stayed but I kind of just wanted to get out."

Bendik came to Toronto with Portland in 2012 and trained at the club's practice facility.

"It wasn't completely done but from what I saw it was pretty damn nice," he said.

Bendik was born in New York but his family moved to Atlanta when he was five.

Bendik and another sister, a star rower, went to Clemson University, located in Clemson, S.C., just two hours away from Atlanta.

Bendik was a backup his first year with the Tigers, playing a half-dozen games. He only missed one contest the next three years.

A member of U.S. under-17 and under-20 teams, the six-foot-three Bendik headed to Europe after school because that was where the interest was -- thanks to a connection courtesy of his former Clemson coach.

"I liked where it was," Bendik said of Norway. "The level was high enough to where I could learn from it and get better but still succeed. It worked out pretty nice."

A keen gamer with friend and Portland teammate/housemate Eric Alexander, Bendik built his custom gaming table during the off-season.

"I got a couple of tools and just ended up building in it in a couple of days, just out of boredom really," he said. "And because we needed a table."

Bendik does more than game, however.

He was named the MLS W.O.R.K.S. Humanitarian of the Month in July for his support of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. He got involved to help young nephew Gavin and others fight the disease.

NOTES -- Former Canadian under-23 player Isidro Sanchez tells MSLsoccer.com that he will assist his father and new Chivas USA coach Jose Luis Sanchez. The 25-year-old Sanchez Jr. says he will scout, edit videos and translate for his father at the MLS team ... Montreal Impact owner Joey Saputo says his managerial search is down to two.

Joe Bendik (Photo: Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
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