Fresh off a shootout victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps in a semifinal of the Amway Canadian Championship, Toronto FC’s star-studded lineup just added another big name in goalkeeper Joe Bendik.
The victory may have come when Issey Nakajima-Farran slotted home Toronto FC’s fifth spot kick, but it was Bendik who stole the show. The 25-year-old came up big in the shootout and made a clinical save on Vancouver dynamo Kekuta Manneh, who placed his shot to the right side of Bendik’s goal. Bendik didn’t have to guess which way Manneh was going to go, though.
“I saw in both games that [Manneh] had a little tendency, he liked that side,” Bendik told reporters after the match. “Every time he cut in, he would try to go for that near post. I told myself at the beginning of the game, or last night, that if we went to penalties, then he would go that way. I ran it through my head. I knew I just had to make one save and the guys would finish them off.”
While Bendik didn’t make another save after the second shot, the rest of his teammates managed to put away each spot kick, ultimately beating the Whitecaps 5-3 in the shootout. Toronto head coach Ryan Nelsen told MLSsoccer.com after the match that his side had practiced penalties in training earlier in the week, something that left Bendik more than confident going into the match.
“The guys are top-class,” Bendik said. “We took penalties the other day in training, and I think I saved maybe one. They were incredible tonight. Their finishes were incredible. To come down to the wire like that, then to finish it so well is a good characteristic for this team.”
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Now, Toronto FC take on the Montreal Impact in a home-and-away two-game series starting on May 28 that will decide the winner of the Canadian Championship. Montreal, the current holders, are out to defend their title, while Toronto have a chance to add a fifth Voyageurs Cup to their trophy cabinet.
Montreal advanced into the finals with a late penalty-kick goal against FC Edmonton, and Bendik is excited to rekindle the 401 Derby between the two neighboring rivals.
“I think I speak for everybody, we’d rather go to Montreal than to Edmonton,” Bendik said. “I like the rivals. Also, it cuts down on our travel for the league. It’s good to have that rivalry so close.”