Faryd Mondragón is used to scouring the Internet for information.
He is used to spending countless hours preparing for upcoming opponents. He is used to being meticulous.
It’s who he is. It’s what he does.
When the Philadelphia Union came calling for the 39-year-old goalkeeper, well, let’s just say that Mondragón was well-versed with the entire organization.
“I take pride in preparing for matches,” Mondragón said at a press conference Thursday in downtown Philadelphia after being introduced along with defender Carlos Valdés. “I put all my heart and soul into playing soccer and it’s very serious to me. I did a lot of research on the computer and I watched a lot of highlights about the Union. I was very impressed with the players and how they played the game.
“I could tell they were well-coached. This league (Major League Soccer) is growing so fast and on the way to being one of the top leagues around. I wanted to play for them after talking to them. I didn’t have to be talked into it. After checking everything out, I was ready to go there. They have a team concept and do things the way I like to do them.”
“First off, he’s a very, very good goalkeeper, but most of all, he is part of a team,” Nowak said. “He knows you need the guys in front of him to be successful as a team. He’s a perfect fit for our organization because he’ll fit right in with the players we have in our locker room. He will come in and do whatever we need and not be so concerned with what’s filling his pockets. That’s very important. His concern is winning and that is ours as well.
“It has to be done the proper way. We feel like we got a goalkeeper who can do that and help mentor Zac (MacMath), who we like very much and feel very lucky to have.”
Mondragón, who is from Cali, Colombia, began his professional career in 1990 with Deportivo Cali of the Colombian First Division, and subsequently joined several other Colombian teams before landing with Argentinean First Division club Atletico Independiente in ‘95. After his time in Colombia and Argentina, Mondragón moved to Europe where he starred in Spain’s La Liga (Real Zaragoza FC, ‘99), the French Ligue 1 (FC Metz, ‘00-‘01), the Turkish First Division (Galatasaray S.K., ‘01-’07, won titles in ‘02 and ‘06), and finally the Bundesliga (FC Cologne, ‘07-’10).
WATCH: Mondragón Highlights
In addition, Mondragón has been capped 50 times for the Colombian National Team since his debut in ‘93. Mondragón was a member of the Colombian teams that competed at the ‘92 Summer Olympics and the ‘98 FIFA World Cup. The goalkeeper’s last appearance with the national team occurred at PPL Park when Colombia played to a scoreless draw with the U.S. Men’s National Team on October 12, 2010.
Having all of this experience will surely help the Union. And having all of this experience will help Mondragón assume a leadership role with his new teammates.
“I am a very strong personality in the goal,” Mondragón said. “I know when to shout a little bit, and I know when to keep calm. That comes from playing competitively all these years. It’s very important to have the trust of all the players in front of you, so you can build a team with 11 guys. It takes all of us working together to win. But no, I’m not shy of raising my voice if needed. I play this game and this sport with all heart and I put everything into it. My teammates will see that on the field. I’m very happy to be a part of this great organization and to be competing with my new teammates together as one.”
Union Coach John Hackworth agreed with Mondragón’s assessment.
“Certainly having young guys in front of you, there is a comfort zone in having someone like Mondragón in the net,” Hackworth said. “Now having said that, we also have veteran defenders like Danny Califf and Jordan Harvey and that will help. When you’re able to add a player of Mondragón’s caliber, you have to feel good about your club. I think with Mondragón and Valdés, we added two quality pieces to our club.”
Mondragón is anxiously anticipating preseason training and getting to know his Union teammates.
He realizes that nothing is guaranteed and he plans on coming in like it’s his rookie season.
“I think preseason training is very important because you start to build an identity of who you are,” Mondragón said. “I have a lot of hard work ahead of me to prove myself. I very much wanted to be part of this team with all my heart, soul and love for the game. I will work hard every day. I think these fans – the Sons of Ben – will appreciate our work ethic. I liked how they played in their first season. I know the fans will like how we work. I am ready to get to know this city, these fans and prepare for an exciting season with the Union.”
He has been ready. He will be prepared. That you can definitely count on.
“Oh yes,” Mondragón said. “I am going to study hard and get ready.”