COLUMBUS, Ohio — Two home games ago, Andrés Mendoza was jeered by the fans for taking a penalty when Jeff Cunningham could have done so and possibly tied the MLS career goal mark.
Mendoza responded by gesturing his disgust to the crowd and the bench that night against Real Salt Lake.
His actions were preceded in the previous home game by his heading straight to the locker room after being pulled after scoring twice against Chivas USA on May 28.
But Sunday night was a different story. Although the 33-year-old Peruvian was once again lifted in the middle of the second half, he not only stuck around but acknowledged the fans’ cheers after his two-goal performance in the Crew’s 4-1 win against Colorado at Crew Stadium.
Watch Highlights: Columbus 4, Colorado 1
And afterward, Mendoza, who fractured his left wrist in that RSL game but has played the past three matches with a cast, showed his resolve to fit in better.
“It was a team effort,” he said. “We’ve been working hard all week to get three points. It’s not just me.”
As Mendoza has battled and started to put the ball in the net more regularly, his teammates have taken notice of his efforts to be a team player.
“He’s risen to the occasion,” goalkeeper William Hesmer said. “He’s not backing down. He’s out here playing with a broken wrist. He easily could have said, ‘I have a broken wrist, you guys don’t like me anyway, so I’m not playing.’ [But] he’s being a man and stepping up and really carrying us.”
Mendoza has gone from an outcast to a valuable commodity in a short period. Six of his seven goals have come in the past six games, and he is now one goal behind league leaders Charlie Davies, Landon Donovan and Thierry Henry.
“The respect in the locker room is not earned on Saturday nights necessarily but Tuesday morning, Wednesday morning, Thursday morning, Friday morning,” Hesmer said of Mendoza. “He’s out there on the training field doing all the little things right and working hard. That’s really where the respect is earned. You do those things, you’re confidence is going to build and guys are going to rally around you.”