Former starting goalie Stefan Frei may finally get his chance to play next week for Toronto FC in place of the suspended Joe Bendik.
Frei has not started an MLS game since Sept. 24, 2011, when Toronto was beaten 3-0 by Chivas USA.
The 27-year-old Swiss-born ‘keeper missed all of last season with an ankle and leg injury suffered in training. Then, having endured a long recuperation, he lost his job to Bendik after breaking his nose in the first game of the 2013 pre-season.
Bendik, a fiery and dependable shot-stopper, has been one of the bright lights in Toronto’s 5-16-11 season. But he received a second yellow card at the end of Toronto’s 1-0 loss to Philadelphia last Saturday and will have to sit out a game in Chicago on Oct. 19.
Toronto has a bye this weekend.
Bendik was yellow-carded in the 86th minute for time-wasting as he prepared a goal kick. After the game ended, he got another yellow when he went to talk to the referee.
Philadelphia scored on a 95th-minute free kick by Brazil’s Kleberson to win 1-0.
“That was a weird one, I don’t understand that,” manager Ryan Nelsen said Tuesday of the ejection.
“Mind-boggling how he got the first (card). And then I think the second (card) was more that he was asking about how it took them (Philadelphia) two minutes to celebrate the goal and then he (referee Armando Villarreal) called the game before the six minutes (stoppage time) was up.
“So he was just asking why blow (the whistle) so quickly, which is a fair question. But generally when you ask those type of questions, you get those type of responses. Unfortunately we won’t have Joe available.”
Villarreal handed out seven yellow cards and a straight red (to Phialdelphia’s Fabinho).
Toronto has no shortage of goalies behind Bendik with Frei, Chris Konopka and Quillan Roberts.
With 81 starts under his belt, the 28-year-old Frei has the most experience. But he is widely expected to be on his way out.
His contract, worth a hefty US$200,000 this season, is expiring and the club is committed to Bendik, who more than likely will get a new deal to reward his No. 1 status. Bendik is making a bargain $46,500 this year.
The team acquired Konopka in a deal with the Philadelphia Union last month. The six-foot-five ‘keeper, who also makes $46,500, is expected to be Bendik’s backup next season.
In the case of fullback Richard Eckersley, another TFC player seen on his way out from the club due to a high salary cap hit, Nelsen has opted to see what else he has available in recent weeks. That has opened up a starting spot for Mark Bloom.
Still his early take is that Frei will get the start.
“We’ll have to see how we go for the next two weeks but Stefan’s been in that (backup) position all season so at the moment it’s his.”
Nelsen’s hand may be forced given that Konopka was recovering from an injury prior to joining Toronto.
“He’s close but probably not close enough,” said Nelsen.
Many fans see Frei as a loyal servant of the club who has endured a dreadful spell of bad luck.
Nelsen was asked at a recent breakfast with supporters whether he would consider giving Frei one final start in the season finale for “a proper sendoff.”
Nelsen was diplomatic at the time, without committing to anything. It’s not the kind of gesture that appeals to the ultra-competitive Nelsen, however.
The Toronto manager may well have opted for Kopoka had he been healthy. But Konopka’s health also gives Nelsen a reason to win some points by starting Frei.
At 19, Roberts is seen as one for the future and will likely be loaned out to a USL team next season to get seasoning.
Bendik’s suspension follows a high note, at least. He is up for save of the week for a stop on Philadelphia’s Michael Farfan.
Kleberson, meanwhile is up for goal of the week.
The bye week comes at a good time for Toronto given that midfielders Bobby Convey (ankle), Darel Russell and Alvaro Rey (both quads) both were injured in the Philadelphia game.
“They should be all right by Chicago but we’ll keep an eye on them,” said Nelsen.
Toronto wraps up its season Oct. 26 at home to the Montreal Impact.