HARRISON, N.J. — Faryd Mondragón enjoyed testing his skills against some of the best players in the world and appreciated all the pageantry that accompanied the MLS All-Star game on Wednesday.
But now the Philadelphia Union goalkeeper is ready to go back to work.
“This nice party is over,” Mondragón said from the bowels of Red Bull Arena following the MLS all-stars’ 4-0 loss to Manchester United, “and now I’m thinking about Friday because it’s a very important game.”
On Friday, fresh off two international friendlies against Everton FC and Real Madrid, the Union play their first league game in 12 days, hosting the Colorado Rapids at PPL Park (7:30 pm ET, Fox Soccer).
And Mondragón, Philly’s captain and lone All-Star representative, knows that things will only get more difficult now that the Union (8-4-7) are tied for first place in the Eastern Conference after firmly establishing themselves as one of the league’s best teams over the first half of the season.
“The most difficult part of the league is now going to start,” Mondragón said. “I think day by day, game by game, we have been improving on all sides. We’re playing very good and disciplined but also playing very nice soccer and scoring goals. Now that we’re No. 1, we are the target of everyone. Everyone wants to beat you.”
One big reason for Philly’s climb to the top of the Eastern Conference table this season has been the vocal leadership and intimidating presence of Mondragón, who was justly rewarded as an All-Star in his first season in MLS.
The 40-year-old Colombian only wishes he could have performed a little better against the potent Manchester United attack. Before coming out at halftime, Mondragón gave up goals to Anderson and Park Ji-Sung in the 20th and 45th minute, respectively.
“You have to be very lucky to know where the ball is and get a real piece of it,” Mondragón said. “I was a little frustrated because I wanted to keep a clean sheet but you have to also be very conscious that this is a great side.”
Still, Mondragón did show why he was picked to be on the All-Star team, snuffing out a sharp cross from Wayne Rooney that likely would have turned into a goal in the 18th minute, before making a leaping save later in the half.
And he did not take for granted the accomplishment of just being out there on that field, in front of a sold-out crowd at Red Bull Arena.
“I’m very happy, very proud representing the Philadelphia Union, representing the country in the All-Star Game, my first All-Star Game, six months after I’ve been here in the league,” Mondragón said. “It means a lot to me.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DaveZeitlin