Mondragon will make a big difference in goal

Faryd Mondragon takes over in goal for the Union this season. "Faryd is a great goalie and came in from day one and [has] shown his class," Jordan Harvey said.
Faryd Mondragon takes over in goal for the Union this season. "Faryd is a great goalie and came in from day one and [has] shown his class," Jordan Harvey said.
Posted: March 18, 2011

The Union were more than respectable in going 8-15-7 during their inaugural Major League Soccer season. Close observers, however, said they would have achieved a better record if they had had steady goaltending.

While the defense was also inconsistent, especially early in the season, goalie Chris Seitz, who was supposed to be the hope of the franchise, didn't come through. After the season, the 23-year-old Seitz was claimed by Seattle in the reentry draft and later traded to FC Dallas. Backup Brad Knighton, who started eight games, was waived after the season.

In their place, the Union brought in the most significant of several key offseason acquisitions, the player who will have the biggest impact on determining whether this is a playoff team. That would be 39-year-old goalie Faryd Mondragon.

Here is a player with World Cup experience who has competed in some of the top leagues in the world. He wanted to come to Philadelphia, and Mondragon is more than just somebody who could make the big save, although after allowing 49 goals last year - tied for second-highest in MLS - the Union can use somebody in that capacity.

Seeing Mondragon take charge in practice this week and hearing his teammates rave about his locker room presence, you realize the Union got not only a top-flight keeper but a leader.

"He took immediate command in the locker room with his experience, and everybody is looking up to him," team manager Peter Nowak said.

While there may be concerns about his age, it isn't coming from his teammates.

"He's the best goalie in the league," said forward Carlos Ruiz, a former MLS MVP with the Los Angeles Galaxy.

A veteran of 50 caps with the Columbian national team, Mondragon is treating his initial stint in MLS with the same focus he displayed for the high-level teams and leagues he competed for, such as FC Cologne of the Bundesliga, where he played from 2007 to 2010.

He has taken his leadership role extremely seriously.

"I think the position as goalie demands the presence and leadership," Mondragon said this week after practice. "With my experience now, I can be like a point of reference for the guys, especially the young ones."

What a reference that is.

"Faryd is a great goalie and came in from day one and [has] shown his class," defender Jordan Harvey said. "He is a great guy in the locker room and a huge addition to this team."

The only problem the coaches have had with Mondragon is getting him off the field. He is constantly looking for extra reps after practice.

"I look forward to coming to work every day and feel great," he said.

He said the biggest surprise has been the quality of play by his teammates.

"To be honest, there is more skill here than I expected," he said. "That has made me very happy."

To the Union's credit, nobody threw the keepers under the bus last year. There was no outward complaining. And the team doesn't want to insult Seitz or Knighton now, either. It's admirable. They said they won as a team and lost as a team.

With Mondragon, one can envision much more winning. He doesn't have to be great every day but merely consistent. If that happens, last year's biggest problem will likely be solved.

Watch Marc Narducci's video interviews from this week's Union practice sessions on's soccer blog, The Goalkeeper:

Contact staff writer Marc Narducci at 856-779-3225 or


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