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Mondragon leaves Union for Deportivo Cali

Photo: Earl Gardner

Philadelphia Union and Faryd Mondragon confirmed Monday that the veteran goalkeeper will leave to sign with Colombian club Deportivo Cali.

Mondragon, 40, will return to his hometown to play for the team he made his professional debut for more than 20 years ago.

“For family reasons, I have requested the club to allow me the opportunity to finish my career where it started,” Mondragon said in a statement released Monday afternoon by the Union.

Mondragon and the Union did not elaborate on the family reasons, but the Union made clear they did not want to stand in his way.

“We understand that family is important above all else and we decided that it was of the utmost importance to grant him his request of finishing his career with his childhood club,” Union manager Peter Nowak said in the Union statement.

The joint announcement follows a sudden flurry of news reports that emerged out of Colombia — but seemingly out of nowhere — over the weekend. Until then, there had been little hint in the U.S. that Mondragon might leave the club. As recently as Sunday afternoon, a Union official told PSP there had been no discussion of Mondragon leaving the Union. But then Nuevo Estadio, a Colombian publication, quoted Mondragon discussing the move Sunday night, and around 10 p.m. that night, the Union informed local media they were closing Monday’s practice to the media after initially planning to have it open.

Mondragon’s departure leaves second-year man Zac MacMath as the only goalkeeper on the roster, and the 20-year-old is expected to miss time this summer if he makes the U.S. Olympic team. The Union have not yet identified any trialists under consideration in training camp, so it’s unclear yet who prospective replacements for Mondragon may be.

Mondragon played one season for the Union after a career that included stints in Colombia, Argentina, Turkey and Germany and 50 caps for the Colombian national team. He was the league’s worst save rate among goalkeepers appearing in at least eight games. After he missed time with an injury in September, MacMath replaced him and went unbeaten in seven starts.

Still, Mondragon’s impact upon the club was clear, and he became a fan favorite for his active play in the box and his connection with fans. Nowak named him team captain before the first match, and he wore the captain’s armband in every game he played.

“I am extremely thankful with our fans, especially Sons of Ben, the best fans in MLS, our ownership, technical staff, my teammates and everyone in the city of Philadelphia who always made me feel at home and made the 2011 season one I will never forget,” Mondragon said. “I look forward to coming back to PPL Park as an avid fan and part of the Union family. I wish the club continued success.”

(PSP may update this post as more information becomes available.)


  1. Good luck Dragon. Zac is gonna have a bit of a learning curve but we’ll be fine in the long run.

  2. From purely a playing standpoint, I don’t think this is a bad thing. Clearly whatever belief/organization influence that Mondragon brought was thoroughly absorbed by the D, which allowed Macmath his soft entry into starter-dom, and macmath is the better athlete, obviously. That said, it’s never good to lose your captain and an emotional/veteran leader.

    Two thoughts now: (1) Who will the U bring in as 2nd keeper, and (2) Califf gets the armband again, right?

  3. He was wonderful for us, but honestly I am 100% ready for MacMath time. I think he’s ready to start, and is fully capable of taking his learning pains and using them to get better.
    For me, the only major question I have about MacMath is how long we can hold onto him before Europe comes calling.

  4. I think he’ll always remain a Union favorite and I’d love to see a friendly with Deportivo Cali.

    Do we have to release MacMath for qualifying games or can Novak tell Porter to shove it?

    • I wouldn’t release him unless he starts … that kind of experience would be valuable. But release him just to sit on the bench? No thanks.

      • MikeRSoccer says:

        Maybe I’m wrong, but I believe it’s an unwritten rule, or maybe a written one, that unless the player is injured you have to release the player for a high profile international tournament.

  5. MikeRSoccer says:

    Can anyone else name a starting goal keeper that is 20? I have confidence in MacMath as well, but this worries me. The plus side to this is that the Union should be able to make one heck of a trade as a result of this move. If I remember correctly something along the lines of 400k+ of Mondragon’s salary counted towards the salary cap. I hope that the Pajoy(sp?) move does not get finalized now. We have plenty of room for one of Nowak’s patented “not a DP by the skin of its teeth” acquisitions. A loan move for Aston Villa’s Brad Guzan would be an interesting endeavor. Get Brad some playing time from now through the summer.

    • Don’t be surprised if the Union look for a starting-quality player to replace Mondragon, though at this point in the winter transfer window, it may be tough.

      You’re right. 20? David de Gea (Manchester United) is 21. So it’s not unheard of. Just very uncommon. Very young for a starting keeper.

  6. Wasn’t it just yesterday the union were saying there were no talks? Bunch of liars. He will be missed

    • I thought this was hilarious. PSP wrote that the Union said no talks with Cali, which is true they dealt with Mondragon directly. Both truthful, and completely useless.

    • If you are gonna be offended by this level of treachery from the Union, This is going to be a very dysfunctional realtionship for you.

  7. Also, assuming Daniel is also gone, how many international spots are taken

  8. Zac’s learnnig curve was last year; he showed that he is a great starter and that the team and fans can depend on him. The key questions is the backup issue. We need at least 1 extra GOOD goal keeper. I hope that the scouts did a good job over the last several months and have several potential candidates in mind. Hopefully we’ll see some on Wednesday at YSC!!!

    • That is an incredibly optimistic outlook. Being the custodian until Mondragon got back was one thing. But now, he is, unless they make a move, the man. Not that he doesn’t have the ability, but the pressure is on because if his form dips, he will still have to go out there and fight through it.

  9. Dave (Bolton) says:

    Le toux is moving to Vancouver, so another one will be leaving you

  10. It seems to me that the dragon wanted out of philly bad! Real bad! I love the excuse…how can you question family issues? Man I would love to be a fly at PPL…That being said. Which veteran GK do we get? Who is out there? Jonathan Tannenwald? I love MacMath and totally see his potential but he aint our starter yet is he?

  11. Big update: @thegoalkeeper Jonathan Tannenwald
    Via @sprtswtr, the Mondragon & possible Le Toux departures would lead the Union to purchase full rights to Roger Torres is.gd/K6cjXy

    For Torres? I’d get rid of LE Toux, sure.

    • le toux is worth 100x more to our team than roger torres. he scores all of our goals, plays 90 minutes, and is the heart of our franchise. get out of here.

      • I know I am alone here but I am still not sold. How much of Le Toux’s contributions are because of sublime skill and how much is it simply because he was allowed to play every minute no matter how bad he looked?
        I think, moving forward, it’s important to objectively look at players and realize who they are. Le Toux is a 28 year old striker with a skill set that starts and ends at “runs hard.”
        Obviously I can’t take away his stats, and of course our other options are young, but I believe this team is building for the future and I honestly don’t think JackMac/Mwanga/Martinez are more than capable of matching Le Toux’s 15 goals.

      • *should read “I honestly DO think”*

      • Le Toux is an average winger and a great striker. I think we will be okay without him but I just think it is insane to pretend he has not been incredibly valuable in the past.

      • I agree with this

  12. For those interested, Nowak is on the ExtraTime podcast talking about Mondragon and some other things: http://www.mlssoccer.com/extratime#downloads

    Nothing earth-shattering, but it does add some additional insight.

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