Faryd Mondragón is headed home.
After a single season between the posts for the Philadelphia Union, Mondragón is going back to his native Colombia, sealing a return to the club where he first made his name as a professional.
The Union announced on Monday that the club and Mondragon, 40, had parted ways on mutual terms, opening the door for the goalkeeper to return to Colombia with Deportivo Cali, the club where he made his professional debut at 21 years of age.
“It has been an absolute honor and a privilege to be part of the Union family,” Mondragón, who captained the Union in 2011, said in a statement. “My time in Philadelphia has proven to be unforgettable, and I am tremendously proud of having led the team for what proved to be a successful 2011. We achieved most of our goals and continued the club's growth into becoming the best club in MLS.
"For family reasons, I have requested the club to allow me the opportunity to finish my career where it started. 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. 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.”
Mondragón joined Philadelphia in January 2011 on a free transfer from FC Cologne of the German Bundesliga, where he played from 2007-10 following stops at clubs in Colombia, Argentina, Spain, France and Turkey.
His presence in net immediately helped Peter Nowak’s side transform into one of Major League Soccer’s stingiest units, as the Union allowed just 36 goals in 34 games – tied for second-fewest in MLS – and made the playoffs in their second year of existence. Mondragón started 27 games for Philadelphia, recording seven shutouts and an 8-8-11 record.
For his efforts with the Union, Mondragón was named an MLS All-Star, starting in goal against Manchester United at Red Bull Arena. He also finished second behind Kasey Keller in MLS Goalkeeper of the Year voting. He is expected to close out his nearly two-decade career with Deportivo Cali, ending his professional life the same way it began.
“We’d like to thank Faryd for his service to our team and his incredible leadership last season,” Nowak said in a statement. “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. We wish him the best of luck as he ends his career at Deportivo Cali, the club where he started his career.”
The obvious replacement in goal for Philadelphia is Zac MacMath, who started seven games in the Colombian’s stead in September and October after Mondragón fractured his finger against Real Salt Lake. Though only 20 years old and entering just his second professional season, MacMath was undefeated in 2011 (3-0-4) and is a member of the US U-23 pool competing for an Olympic roster spot. He also trained at Everton with US starter Tim Howard this winter.