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TORONTO -- On a day when Julio Cesar essentially said farewell to Toronto FC, fellow goalie Joe Bendik opted not to talk to the media.Christian Yelich Jersey . Perhaps he was ceding the day to the Brazilian No. 1, one reporter surmised. A day later, Bendik came clean. Chatting with journalists had conflicted with his tee time Tuesday. The 25-year-old American keeper, who shot a round of 79, comes with a certain amount of swagger. That ego took a jolt when, after winning Torontos No. 1 job in 2013, Bendik lost his starting role in pre-season to Cesar. "A hit to my pride today but luckily Ive got tons of it! Going to take in everything I can from a top shelf gk (goalkeeper) to better my abilities," Bendik tweeted, with a colourful adjective before tons, when Cesars signing was announced in February. Three months later, Bendik is back as Torontos No. 1. Cesar has left the club for the World Cup and is not expected back, with Englands Queens Park Rangers looking to cut short the loan agreement with MLS. Bendik says he is a better goalie for having spent time with the 34-year-old Cesar. "He did things for my career that I couldnt do over 20 years, probably," said Bendik, his post-practice calendar apparently a littler clearer Wednesday. "Just to see him play, see his professionalism was amazing. "Now I have to step in and start to play some games and continue what I did last year. And continue what Ive done the last three games." Cesar gave way to Bendik for both legs of the Amway Canadian Championship semifinal against the Vancouver Whitecaps. Bendik also played in Saturdays 2-0 league win over the New York Red Bulls when Cesar was laid low by the flu. Bendik came to Toronto in a December 2012 trade with Portland. The Timbers got forward Ryan Johnson and goalie Milos Kocic in exchange for Bendik, the third overall pick in the 2013 SuperDraft and allocation money. At the time, the goalie component of the deal seemed like a swap of backups with Bendik taking over for Kocic -- who believed he should have been No. 1 in Toronto -- behind the oft-injured Stefan Frei. But when Frei was injured in the first pre-season game in Florida in 2013, Bendik took over and started 33 games for Toronto. Frei was traded to Seattle at the end of the season and Bendik was rewarded with a new contract. When he heard Cesar was coming to Toronto, Bendik said he knew it could go "either amazing or terrible. Luckily its amazing." It helped that inside the team, word was that Cesar was likely going after the World Cup. Rather than being left out in the cold, Bendik knew in essence that he was having an extended training camp -- while having the opportunity to learn from one of the best goalies in the world. It was no coincidence that Nelsen, praising Bendik after he helped Toronto win a penalty shootout in the Amway Canadian Championship, said he would not be surprised to see his young keeper earn a call-up to the U.S. national team after the World Cup. Cesar was moving on. Bendik was back. For Nelsen, the Cesar acquisition was always a marriage of convenience with a short timeline. Cesar needed a place to play ahead of the World Cup and QPR wanted some salary relief. Toronto got a world-class goalie, a tutor for Bendik and the invaluable publicity of seeing Toronto FC by the name of Brazils goalkeeper at the World Cup. Having Cesar around would also help settle fellow Brazilians Gilberto and Jackson. Plus the short-term nature of the relationship means that the club will have some salary cap space come the summer. It was win-win. "Its benefited the league, its benefited the club and its benefited every single player here at Toronto," Nelsen said. It helped that Cesar, like Englands Jermain Defoe and American Michael Bradley, was a good citizen with an ego seemingly in check. They may be stars, but they dont act like it. Cesar met the media only periodically in Toronto. But he was always relaxed when he did, his arm invariably around translator Daniel Correia. "Thats Nellie," Bendik said, referring to Nelsen. "I think his No. 1 prerequisite is you have to be a good guy. You have to be a character in the locker-room. If youre not, he doesnt really care for it." Cesars relaxed way was infectious. Bendik, for one, says the Brazilians message was to let mistakes go, to look ahead rather than behind. When that advice comes from a Serie A goalkeeper of the year and Champions League winner, you tend to listen. "When he came, right away he took me under his arm and he wanted the best for me right from the start," Bendik said. "That helped me a lot to embrace the moment." Its help that Bendik says he will pay forward -- if he finds himself playing in his mid-30s with a young goalie. "I hope Im half the way he is," he said of Cesar. "Its been fantastic," said backup goalie Chris Konopka. "Working side by side with Julio, with the Brazil No. 1, hes as focused as he will ever be because hes preparing himself to be on the world stage, for basically the No. 1 team in the world," he added. "All eyes are going to be on him. It was definitely a unique and great experience working side by side with him." The goalies arent the only ones to praise Cesar. Captain Steven Caldwell says playing with Cesar has been one of the highlights of his career. "The impact hes had on me and everybody else at this football club is huge," said the Scottish defender. "In such a short space of time, for everybody to have the pleasure to see what its like to be a top, top professional and an outstanding goalkeeper is a real pleasure." "An outstanding human being," added Caldwell. The whole team plans to stay in touch with the Brazilian, by means of a chat group during the World Cup. No one will cheer louder than the Toronto FC dressing room if Cesar gets to hoist the World Cup. Ichiro Suzuki Marlins Jersey . Hes the same player he always was, only now his efforts are being rewarded. The rookie manager has made a habit of heaping praise on others when things are going well, and accepting criticism when they arent.  But in the case of Hurtado, its what the coach is NOT saying that may be the secret to a superb run of form. Custom Miami Marlins Jerseys . He never mentioned anything about his hitting. The 33-year-old right-hander had success with both Sunday, pitching six solid innings and helping the offence-starved Mets with an RBI single as New York salvaged a doubleheader split with a 4-2 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks.(SportsNetwork.com) - The Houston Rockets will put their perfect record on the line tonight in their stiffest test to date, a home battle with the defending NBA champion San Antonio Spurs. Later, two of the Western Conferences postseason teams from a season ago tangle early in this campaign when the Portland Trail Blazers welcome the Dallas Mavericks to the Moda Center. Both games can be seen on TSN2 beginning with the Rockets vs. Suprs at 8pm et/5pm pt. The Rockets can become the leagues first 6-0 team with a victory on Thursday. The Memphis Grizzlies and Golden State Warriors are also perfect in the early part of this campaign. Houston is supremely confident and should be against the Spurs. The Rockets swept the season series in 2013-14 and have won seven of the last nine at home versus the defending champs. The Rockets reached 5-0 in their toughest challenge before Thursday, toppling the previously undefeated Miami Heat, 108-91, in South Beach on Tuesday night. James Harden was a rebound shy of a triple-double, tallying 25 points and 10 assists for the Rockets. We showed tremendous confidence, especially in the fourth quarter, said Harden. We got stops when we needed to. Dwight Howard posted 26 points and 10 boards and Trevor Ariza nailed five 3- pointers and netted 19 points for Houston, which is off to its first 5-0 start since opening 6-0 during the 1996-97 season. Patrick Beverley returned from a two-game absence due to a hamstring injury and scored 15 points. The Rockets started the season against relative NBA lightweights, but the level rose with the four-time defending Eastern Conference champions. It gets even higher versus the NBA champions. Im happy with our progress, but were not satisfied, Howard said after the Miami victory. Weve got a tough game with San Antonio. We have to be ready for our next opponent. The Spurs were well-rested for their home tilt with the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday. San Antonio had only played twice early in the campaign and it showed some rust, but escaped with a 94-92 win. You can make the argument on both sides, was there rust there, or is it good to get rest? opined Duncan. Luckily, we got the win and well build on that. With the score tied with 13.6 seconds remaining, Manu Ginobili drove the lane and kicked to the corner, but was fouled with 3.8 ticks on the clock. He buried a pair of free throws, then Boris Diaw blocked a last-second heave to allow the Spurs to survive. We need to be sharper, execute better, and today we just didnt, said Ginobili. Ginobili scored seven of his 12 points on Wednesday at the foul line. Duncan and Tony Parker each finished with 17 points, with the former grabbing 13 rebounds with six blocks, four assists and three steals. Kawhi Leonard and Diaw each scored 11 points in the win. Tiago Splitter returned from a calf injury, then left because he felt tightness in the area. His availability for Thursday night is undetermined. Mavericks and Blazers battle in Portland Two of the Western Conferences postseason teams from a season ago tangle early in this campaign whenn the Portland Trail Blazers welcome the Dallas Mavericks to the Moda Center. Dustin McGowan Marlins Jersey. Theyre a great team, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. Theyre a playoff team, and theyre a different team than what weve seen with the quality of their big men and their 3-point shooting ability straight across the board. Its a tough matchup, and thats always a very difficult place to play. The Mavs begin this mini road trip on a roll, winning three straight and vaulting into the league lead in scoring at 111.8 ppg. Dallas will also visit the Utah Jazz on Friday before returning home. The Mavericks reached 3-1 Monday night with a 118-113 victory at home over the Boston Celtics. Chandler Parsons scored 29 points on 10-of-15 shooting, but the Mavs nearly squandered a 26-point lead. Jeff Green and Avery Bradley fueled the Celtics comeback, totaling 35 and 32 points, respectively. Bradley had a chance to tie things at the free throw line with 39.5 seconds to go but only made two of his three attempts. Monta Ellis, after fouling Bradley behind the arc, ended Bostons 9-0 run with a tough runner off the glass to give Dallas a 116-113 lead. He made two more free throws to seal the win. They are scrappy and you know that they are going to continue to fight back, Mavs center Tyson Chandler said of the Celtics. Dirk Nowitzki netted 27 points with seven rebounds while Ellis added 14 points for the Mavs. Chandler posted a double-double with 10 points and 12 boards, while Devin Harris managed 12 points. The Mavs shot 53.7 percent from the floor and 56 percent from long range. The Blazers got back on track Tuesday night. They halted a two-game slide with an emphatic statement game, a 101-82 home victory over LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Needless to say, it was good to get a win, said Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts. But more importantly, it was how we got it, how we played. That looked like the team that we need to be. We withstood their barrage in the first quarter, stayed with our schemes and our coverages and the next 3 1/2 quarters, we did a great job defensively. We stuck with the defense and we got rhythm to the offense. It was a solid win at both ends of the court. The Cavs opened the game 10-for-10 from the field, but tailed off offensively. Cleveland never posted 20 points in the remaining three quarters an
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