December 11, 2012
Mendes: 'The name of the Cosmos, the history behind the club. I feel like the club is going to take off'
By Michael Lewis
|Cosmos coach Giovanni Savarese, Carlos Mendes and Cosmos COO Erik Stover
Photo courtesy of the Cosmos
Carlos Mendes had a difficult decision to make.
He could return to the Columbus Crew and play at least another season in Major League Soccer or return home and play for the New York Cosmos.
He choose the latter and regardless what transpires in his career with the revived franchise, the 31-year-old native of Mineola, N.Y. will be the answer to a trivia question: who was the first player to sign with the Cosmos?
The former Red Bulls/MetroStars defender officially joined the North American Soccer League team on Tuesday after signing a contract.
"I had an offer, an opportunity to go back, but I choose to go home," he said. "It was an opportunity to come home and play for the Cosmos. The name of the Cosmos, the history behind the club. I feel like the club is going to take off in the future. These are all positive things. I had a great experience. Columbus is an unbelievable club. They were great to me, from the coaching staff to front office to al of the guys on the team. It wasn't an easy decision, but in the end it was one that brought me home and I am excited to be here.
"It's a huge honor. It's a humbling experience with the history and the players that have played for this club. . . . I look forward being part of the club in the future. Hopefully, down the road in the front office."
Mendes has plenty of ties to Long Island and New York. He made his name at Mineola High School. He played a vital role for the Long Island Rough Riders during their championship run to the USL Second Division championship in 2002. He eventually returned home a first time to play for the MetroStars, who became the Red Bulls. Before leaving for the Crew, he bought a house in East Meadow.
When he commuted from Long Island to the MetroStars and Red Bulls training and games, he had to drive on two bridges and more than an hour to drive to New Jersey. He might take 20 minutes to get to Hofstra University in Hempstead, the Cosmos' home.
Cosmos coach Giovanni Savarese said it was a no-brainer to bring Mendes back.
"Do you have time until tomorrow?" said Savarese, indicating his many reasons. "First of all, his character, his personality, his commitment, leadership. All those values that he has are important for us to build upon that, the new adventure with the Cosmos. Besides, all the things he brings on the field -- his awareness -- his knowledge, his experience. There are a lot of things that he has that are very positive, that we were looking for.
"Besides the fact that he's a New Yorker; he's from Long Island. He grew up there, close to where we're going to be playing. We are sending a very strong message to everyone that we are very much interested in local talent; that we want to build our team with American talent and players from New York. There were so many things that made sense with his situation to make it happen."