Carlos Mendes may have never envisioned a homecoming like this.
After being cut by the New York Red Bulls in 2011, the former Metrostars defender finds himself back in New York’s professional soccer scene – this time as the first signing of the New York Cosmos modern era.
“It’s a huge honor, honestly. A very humbling experience,” Mendes told EoS. “I mean, the Cosmos have such tradition, such a big name. The players that have played for this club, for me to be the first signing … it’s just a huge honor.
“It’s amazing how it works out,” he continued. “Of course, when I heard the Cosmos were coming back, or there was talk about it, you never really knew for sure. It was in the back of your mind but at the time, I had to finish my MLS contract and see how it happens.”
At 32 years of age, the MLS veteran may very well call it a career with this move. A Mineola native, Mendes would feature for the Cosmos at their home in Hofstra University, bringing the defender’s career full circle. “It is kind of funny how it all works out,” he explained. “You kind of start here locally, play a couple of years, of course this past year being at Columbus which was a great experience. To come back home and to finish my career, for a club like the Cosmos, it is very exciting.”
The current Cosmos brass features familiar faces in both former Metrostar Giovanni Savarese at the coaching helm and COO Erik Stover. “It was a big reason (for the move),” Mendes explained. “I have so much respect for Gio and Erik and it’s going to be a lot of fun to play here. I remember growing up watching Gio play. He’s a great player and a very good person. I am happy to be here to go to work for him.”
For Savarese, who is taking an active role in recruiting his Fall team, Mendes is the ideal fit. “You can understand completely what I am going to say,” Savarese explained. “He put so much on the field as he brings outside the field. His leadership, his expertise, his foundation, his commitment to the game, to the shirt that he always wears, our values we want to make sure that our players have. He promotes those things, besides being a very good player.
“We also wanted to make sure that we signed a local player,” he continued. “A player that prides himself with the community, that sends a very strong message to New York that we are respecting the talent in New York. For that and many, many other reasons, we are very content that he is the first signing for us in this new adventure.”
Of course, signing Mendes is a major first step for the fledgling side, but with an anticipated first kick for the Fall of 2013, the Cosmos brass admits they must keep him active for that eventual debut. That would require a short term loan; something Erik Stover spoke about when addressing Cosmos fans during last month’s Q&A
“Definitely, we are interested in making sure that Carlos stays in shape, that he continues playing, that he doesn’t lose the rhythm of play,” Savarese said. “We are definitely interested in doing that. We have some possibilities and when the time comes, we will know for sure.”
Meanwhile, Mendes – ever the work horse – looks forward to this next chapter in his professional career.
“I’ve spoken to my family and we said the same thing; we were kind of like ‘it’s amazing how it works out.’ You can’t really plan things, of course. If you had said this a couple of years back, I never figured it would work out this way. As it is, I am so excited about it, the timing of it all.
“I think New York deserves a team,” he continued, “and I am going to be playing in the community where I grew up playing. I have so much family and friends who have always supported me from day one. I’m looking forward to go home and play for them also.
“I look at it the same way I did when I signed my first professional contract. I believe the Cosmos are heading in the right direction. They have so much history behind them. Just to help this club move forward in any way I can. I am going to handle it the way I have always handled my career, my contract in the MLS and I am looking forward to going to work here.”