Featured / Union

Union: No Union talks with Deportivo Cali on Mondragon

Photo: Paul Rudderow

(UPDATE: Several hours after this post went live, another Colombian report quoted Mondragon as saying he would be moving to Cali. Mondragon could not be reached by PSP for comment. The Union subsequently closed the Monday training session to the media, after it had initially been open.)

Philadelphia Union goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon remains a Union player.

A Union official confirmed Sunday that Mondragon was in camp with the Union and said the club has not talked with Deportivo Cali, despite Colombian reports that Mondragon could initiate a move to his hometown club, Deportivo Cali.

Mondragon, who broke into the pros with Deportivo Cali more than 21 years ago, has said previously he would like to stay with the Union this year and possibly retire in Philadelphia.

The Colombian reports renewed questions about Mondragon’s tenure with the club, which first arose in September after he missed several weeks due to injury. Rookie goalkeeper Zac MacMath replaced Mondragon and played well in his absence, going undefeated in seven starts and posting a better save percentage (64 percent) than Mondragon (62.39). Until his injury, Mondragon had been credited as a crucial part of the a defensive turnaround on a team that lacked confidence defensively after giving up the second most goals in the league in 2010, and Mondragon helped change, along with the additions of Carlos Valdes and Sheanon Williams.

A postseason analysis showed Mondragon had the league’s lowest save rate among goalkeepers with at least eight appearances, but at nearly $400,000, he had the highest salary of all MLS goalkeepers. While he still seemed as smart a goalkeeper as any in the league, his shot-stopping proved a question mark at times late in the season.

But does that mean the Union will let him go?

Commentary: The pros and cons of a Mondragon departure

A Mondragon departure could free up a big chunk of salary to finance acquisition of two quality MLS players, or even a designated player.

MacMath was always viewed as the goalkeeper of the future after the Union spent their first round draft pick on him in 2011, but with Mondragon around, few expected that future to be now. After Seitz proved not ready for prime time, the idea was clearly to bring in an experienced veteran to hold the job for maybe two years and mentor MacMath while he prepared for the starting role. His good play thus far doesn’t change the fact that MacMath is just 20 years old at a position where players often peak developmentally in their early 30s.

Even if MacMath proves able to step in as a regular starter this year, the Union would have big holes to fill.

MacMath appears a near-lock for the U.S. Olympic team this summer, meaning the Union will be without him for several games. If Mondragon departs, the Union would need another goalkeeper capable of starting important mid-season matches. While they likely have another goalkeeper or two set for trials in training camp, it’s a long shot that someone competing to be a third-string goalie will be someone the Union want starting several key summer games. Should the Union choose to let Mondragon go this late in the winter transfer period, they may not find a quality backup goalkeeper available until the summer transfer market opens.

Then there’s this simple fact: Mondragon is still a good player and a terrific model for a young goalkeeper like MacMath.

Has Mondragon lost a step? Probably.

But the Union captain has been a good team leader and ambassador on and off the field. Whatever he’s lost in quickness, he appears to largely make up for with smarts and intangibles. Sure, the numbers show one thing, but don’t forget the Union are still just a third-year team establishing a team culture both in the locker room and with their fan base. In that, veterans like Mondragon are key.

Should Mondragon leave, the Union will lose something they may find difficult to replace.


  1. To note, neither of the Colombian reports said that Cali had talked to the Union. In fact, the El Pais one states that Mondragon is the one talking to the Union about cutting his contract short.

    • I haven’t independently confirmed that, so the links to the Colombian reports will have to stand for now. If/when we get more info, we’ll update this post accordingly.

      • For my article on tBG, I had a native Spanish speaker go over the translations with me. Going off of what he read, “La Vicepresidente del Deportivo Cali contó que el propio Farid es quien está haciendo los arreglos para desligarse del Philadelphia Union y que, además, tiene el pase en su poder” is what refers to Faryd being the one talking to the Union.

      • Thanks, Scott. Not saying it didn’t happen. That’s why we link to the translated original report, which explains that. We just write what we know. The benefit of being online is you get to edit when you learn more. 🙂 You might see this post tweaked a bit this evening, as we often do after posts go live.

      • You’re welcome to cite the paraphrasing of the translations that I have in mine. More than happy to pass along info to you guys, and vice-versa, as it only makes fans more knowledgeable.

        I tossed this story up on tBG as a fanshot, link is currently the top of the front of the site.

  2. Chase Harrison, the emergency keeper the Union called up from Harrisburg in September, would be a capable backup in there’s truth to this transfer. Considering his minimum salary and domestic status, I was surprised he wasn’t retained as a 3rd string keeper to begin with.

    If Mondy leaves, that would also open an international spot – might we see the return of Thorne Holder?

    • I’d say it’s wide open if Mondragon leaves. And now it’s looking like he’s gone. The Union informed us last night they were closing practice to media today, when originally it had been open. That coincides with another Colombian report (that came out after this post went live) quoting Mondragon on moving to Cali. So, it looks like things have changed, and a move may be on.

  3. Enter The MacMath Era!

  4. I’m really excited to see more MacMath this season if this goes through.. but it raises more questions about how the Union will handle the Olympics.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *