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Stefan Frei still not cleared from broken nose, Joe Bendik to start for Toronto FC

Stefan Frei

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TORONTO – With Stefan Frei not yet cleared to train with Toronto FC because of a broken nose, backup goalkeeper Joe Bendik will get the start Saturday in the Reds’ season at Vancouver (6:30 pm ET, TSN/RDS in Canada, MLS Live in US).

Frei (above) suffered the injury late in the first half of TFC’s first preseason game on Feb. 9 in Orlando against Columbus when he ran out from his goal to dive for a pass and his nose met the boot of onrushing striker Ryan Finley.

The veteran ‘keeper left the game and had surgery on the nose three days later. Frei has been wearing a protective face mask since returning to train separately from the team.

“Obviously I would prefer to play without it, it's just a nose, as I say,” Frei told reporters Wednesday after training at the club’s Downsview training facility. “But if I carry this nose injury throughout this whole year, that's probably not the best thing.”

READ: Toronto FC's 2013 depth chart

The preseason match against the Crew was Frei’s first game action since he suffered fractured left fibula and torn ankle ligaments that required surgery last March. The 26-year-old said he will be ready to play in a game once he has been cleared to training with the team.

“In a practice, you're facing about 200 or so shots,” he said. “In a game, a very busy game, you'll probably face 18 shots. That's a very busy game. When I'm ready for the team, that will be a statement that I'm ready for games.

“But we want to let it heal a little bit. Essentially if I do get a bad knock and it breaks, we have to put it back in place, that puts us back at square one. I'm sure I'll be pushing the medical staff to release me as early as possible, but at the same time I appreciate that they have my best interest in their minds.”

Frei said the injured nose does not cause him any problems now.

“I can blow my nose without pain,” he said. “I know that sounds kind of crazy, but it's the little things, right? It's good, I'm happy. I think it's getting stronger and stronger each day.”

Bendik, 23, was obtained in an offseason trade with the Portland Timbers. He played in five games in 2012, his rookie season, starting three.