BRIAN SCIARETTA - Monday, July 19, 2010
After a solid four years at Clemson University, goalkeeper Joe Bendik is looking to begin his professional career at Sogndal in the Norwegian 1. Division.
The path to Norway was not a smooth one for Bendik following college. After his collegiate career there were not many options and he wondered whether or not he had a future in the sport.
"After my last season at Clemson I was really hoping to make it into the MLS combine," Bendik told YA from Norway. "I am not really sure what happened. I felt like I had a solid four years there."
"It was a shaky three months for me after the season as I had only received a few calls from agents and the USL," he continued. "I was traveling from school in Clemson, to my job in Atlanta working construction to pay for my expenses after my college career had ended. I knew I wasn't going back to school, and it was time for me to start my career, but just nothing was turning up for me."
Bendik, 21, finally received a bit of a break through when his college coach was able to put him in touch with an agent in Finland who had contacts in Norway. Eventually this would lead to a trial in which Bednik earned a contract
"My former coach at Clemson, Phil Hinson, got me in contact with a Finnish agent," the Georgia native recalled of the difficult process. "He knew the coach at Sogndal, and worked me out a trial. Within five days of first talking to the agent, I was on trial at Sogndal. I was there three weeks before signing with Sogndal a few months before the season started."
Bendik has become the reserve keeper for Sogndal but has received playing time in Norwegian Cup matches. He has found the playing style in Norway to be different but he feels as if he is adjusting to everything well.
"The style of play for our team is very direct so I always have to be off my line to receive balls over the top," Bendik described. "It was nice to start in a game again and I felt comfortable. Some things didn't go my way in the second game, [there was an own goal], but all my trainings have been going well so I am very hopeful for the next Cup match."
Bendik has also been forced to adjust to life in the municipality of Sogndal which consists of fewer than 3,000 residents and is located in a more remote area on the country's western side.
"It was difficult at first with the small language barrier," Bendik discussed. "Now I am more on track. It is definitely a big change coming into such a small town, just 3,000 inhabitants. I am getting more familiar with how everything works and everyone on the team. Things look to be getting better."
Bendik now is focused on climbing the depth chart and looking for ways to earn more playing time. He knows it will be difficult to earn the top goalkeeper position, but that is his overall goal.
"I think I am doing really well in trainings," Bendik said of his current status. "But in order to start, I will need to seize my opportunities during matches with the first team. We have a very strong first keeper, [Piotr Leciejewski], and he has definitely established himself here in the prior two years of me being here."
In addition to earning more playing time, Bendik also wants to improve his game and become a better overall keeper. So far he feels as if he is improving in Norway.
"My main goals other then of course to earn the starting spot is to focus on my progression as a keeper," Bendik stated. "Right now I want to get better at communicating with the team, my starting position to retrieve those awkward balls over the top, and my ability to come for as many crosses as I can."
Sogndal currently sit in first place in the 1. Division through 13 games and are five points clear of second place Fredrikstad.