Mondragon Thriving Since Return to Colombia

HOUSTON - MARCH 19: Goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon of the Philadelphia Union celebrates after the final whistle as the defeated the Houston Dynamo 1-0 at Robertson Stadium on March 19, 2011 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

The 2012 Major League Soccer preseason was a tumultuous one for the Philadelphia Union.

Under then-head coach Peter Nowak, the Union were quickly dissolved of much of their resemblance to the squad that had made the playoffs in the previous season. Despite the franchise's quick success - a playoff appearance in its second season of existence - Nowak, and the rest of the Philadelphia brass, felt it necessary to change the makeup of the team.

One of the casualties of this choice to morph the Union was Faryd Mondragon. The intense and intimidating goalkeeper returned to Deportivo Cali, the team with which he began his professional soccer career, instead of extending his contract as he had hinted to on Twitter last year.

Rumors have floated around Mondragon since the news broke of his departure, with speculation pointing to a rift with Nowak or other members of the Union front office as the cause for the Colombian's decision to return to his country of birth.

Mondragon was able to put the nature of his exit from Philadelphia behind him, whether it was wanted by him or not, and played exceptionally well for Cali.

Well enough that Mondragon, at the age of 41, was called up to the Colombian national team. He joined former Union teammate Carlos Valdes, who currently captains Philadelphia, in Colombia's camp in Madrid, Spain last week, ahead of the nation's 2014 World Cup qualifying matches in September.

"I think his return to the national side is more to do with providing some valuable experience for David Ospina who, before the squad was announced, spoke of his desire to work alongside the veteran," Carl Worswick, an English journalist who has covered Colombian soccer for the past few years, told the Brotherly Game in an email. "I can see the sense in this."

"Mondragon has said he doesn't expect this to be his last call-up and so, while I don't think it's a long-term solution, it would certainly be handy for Ospina to spend a year working with Mondragon, especially considering there's no real other strong candidate challenging Ospina," Worswick said.

Former Colombian national team goalkeeper Óscar Córdoba said on television yesterday that the former Union captain was one of the two best 'keepers in Liga Postobon, keeping in line with Worswick's thoughts about Mondragon's form and future with Los Cafeteros.

"I think most Colombian football fans would have put Mondragon in the top three keepers of the apertura and so, alongside this, he would also make a decent replacement should Ospina not be available," Worswick said.

"Also, I think Pekerman is very concerned with the lack of leaders - Yepes the exception - in the team and this was quite evident in the last two qualifiers. Mondragon has shown for Cali that he's very vocal and should provide a boost in this respect too."

Leadership was always one thing that Mondragon did not lack in his sole season in Philadelphia.

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