BEAVERTON, Ore. – Talk about jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire.
From being thrust into action against the Seattle Sounders to now having to face off against Golden Boot front runner Chris Wondolowski and the league’s highest scoring team, Portland Timbers third-string goalkeeper Joe Bendik is certainly not having a boring week.
The MLS newcomer will start in the net in place of injured starter Donovan Ricketts in the Timbers' match Wednesday against the MLS-leading San Jose Earthquakes at Buck Shaw Stadium (10:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online).
Ricketts suffered a grade 1 shoulder separation, the club announced Monday, after colliding with Seattle forward Eddie Johnson in the 52nd minute of Portland’s 1-1 tie Saturday against the Sounders.
Backup ‘keeper Jake Gleeson then injured his hand in the Timbers reserves match against the Sounders reserves on Sunday, suffering a bone bruise and a partially torn ligament.
“It’s going to be fun,” Bendik told MLSsoccer.com after Tuesday’s training session at the team’s training facility. “It’s a good opportunity. You can look at in a negative way and say, ‘Oh [no], I’ve got to start against one of the best scorers in the league.’ Or you can say this is a chance to really show myself.”
Bendik was tested seconds after he came on against Seattle when forward Fredy Montero beat him to the far corner on a right-footed blast from the top of the box. Bendik, who spent his first two professional seasons playing in Norway’s top league, said Tuesday he wasn’t beat against Seattle because he was awestruck from the moment.
“It’s something that could have happened 20 minutes later,” Bendik said. “Just because it happened then it was a little funny. But it was able to get me going right away if anything. It was a great strike, and I would rather that than having me bobble the ball and have it go in the back of the net.”
It was the second time this season that Bendik was forced into action because of an injury. He logged 23 minutes April 28 against Montreal after former Timbers goalkeeper Troy Perkins took a boot to his face. That went much worse for Bendik, who gave up up two goals in the 2-0 loss.
Timbers interim head coach Gavin Wilkinson said aside from Montero’s goal, his young ‘keeper performed well. He made two saves the rest of the way, including one that saved the tie on a stoppage-time blast from Osvaldo Alonso.
“I thought he did very well when he came in, especially after the start that he had,” Wilkinson said. “Pulling the ball out of the back of the net as your first touch of the ball and then coming back and making a couple big saves is a testament to his character and his ability.
"When you’re playing a rival at home in front of a packed house and for the keeper to do as good as he did with the environment around him I think is tremendous for him and his confidence going into the game against San Jose.”
Bendik said his eagerness to face Wednesday’s challenge, however, doesn’t mean he isn’t a bit nervous.
“You always have a little anxiety or you’re a little bit nervous going into a game,” he said. “And if you lose that, I mean, you really shouldn’t be playing. You should always have that edge before you go into a game.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.