WAYNE, Pa. – Whenever they went on the road last season, it seemed Carlos Valdés, Roger Torres and Faryd Mondragón were always together. Not only were the Colombians teammates on the Philadelphia Union, but also the best of friends.
Naturally, then, it wasn’t easy at first for Valdés and Torres to see Mondragón leave the Union to return to their native Colombia earlier this offseason.
“We are good friends – maybe you can almost stay that we are brothers,” Valdés told MLSsoccer.com. “It’s difficult for us because Faryd is a great player and a good person. He was the player with the most experience of this group, so it’s a difficult situation for us. We hope that Faryd has a great season in Colombia and the same for us here.”
The good thing for both Torres and Valdés is that they learned a lot about soccer and leadership from Mondragón, who was Philadelphia’s staring 'keeper and captain last season. And they plan to use that for the upcoming season.
Torres, a 20-year-old midfielder, already showed his ever-growing maturity when he said Mondragón’s departure is a “part of soccer” and that the team needs to focus on the “people already here to do better this year.”
And Valdés, a 26-year-old central defender, seems poised to take on an even greater leadership role this season. Union manager Peter Nowak has previously mentioned him as one of a few players in line to wear the captain’s armband behind Danny Califf.
“Faryd taught me a lot of things,” Valdés said. “His experience was very important for us. Maybe now we are more motivated.”
Another good thing for Torres and Valdés is that the Union added four more international players this offseason – fellow Colombian Lionard Pajoy, Panamanian Gabriel Gómez and Costa Ricans Porfirio López and Josué Martínez.
Valdés says he knows Gómez pretty well from when both played in Colombia, and is familiar with the others, too.
“They are good players,” Valdés said. “I’m so happy about that.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org