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Mondragón proud to represent Union at All-Star Game

CHESTER, Pa. — Faryd Mondragón is honored to be an All-Star in his first season in Major League Soccer. The Philadelphia Union goalkeeper only wishes some of his “lions” would make the trip with him to Red Bull Arena for the AT&T MLS All-Star Game on July 27.

“It’s fortunate for me, but unfortunate that there’s only one player [on the Union] they have chosen,” Mondragón said. “I have to go and represent the Philadelphia Union as they deserve.

“Obviously I’m very proud,” the 40-year-old Colombian ’keeper added. “I have to thank everyone from the ownership to the front office to the technical staff and especially my lions, as I call my players. They make my job very easy.”

With his vocal leadership and stingy 0.84 goals-against average, Mondragón has certainly made a world of difference for the Union, who have emerged as one of the league’s top teams in their second season.

But the veteran ’keeper has only needed to make 30 saves through 19 games, which, more than anything else, is a testament to his potent back line.

“I think we have the best defense in the whole league,” said Mondragón, noting he was surprised that none of the club’s defenders got an All-Star nod. “Even if some other teams have two of three more shutouts than us, that doesn’t mean their defense is better.”

Fellow Colombian and MLS rookie Carlos Valdés was probably the biggest All-Star snub, but veteran center back Danny Califf and rising star right back Sheanon Williams could also make strong cases to have been included as one of the 22 MLS All-Stars that will face off against Manchester United on July 27.

If All-Star head coach Hans Backe’s picks bothered Califf, however, he didn’t show it.

“People who have been around MLS long enough realize all the guys selected for the All-Star team, it’s hit or miss, whether it’s about popularity or recognition for past seasons,” the Union defender said. “There are always some selections that leave you scratching your head but, at the end of the day, those are the All-Stars and those are the guys that are going to represent all of us in the league, so you want them to do well.

“Faryd is definitely in the category of guys that deserve it and deserve the chance to represent MLS against Man. United.”

Union manager Peter Nowak was even more diplomatic, saying Mondragón’s selection was “fully deserved” but that he didn’t want to discuss any specific snubs.

“The whole team, in my view, deserves to be on the All-Star team,” Nowak said.

Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DaveZeitlin.