Mondragon To The Union, And What It Means

You may have heard last evening that the Union have signed 39 year old Colombian goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon, formerly of German side FC Köln, on a free transfer. And if you hadn't, well, now you have. I've heard unconfirmed reports that might be our first Designated Player (cue dramatic echo), which is a bit surprising, based on what we've heard previously from the FO about DPs. I for one welcome the signing. Our biggest problem area last season was between the posts. Chris Seitz never earned that "next great American keeper" tag that was placed on him, and while Brad Knighton looked better after Seitz was dropped, he had his own issues to deal with. Whereas Seitz often looked timid and indecisive in net (away to Toronto, at home to Kansas City, etc.), Knighton often seemed to willing to commit, the most obvious example being his red card at Dallas.

This obviously gives us a bit of a logjam at the goalkeeper position. We've carried three keepers before, but the third was a rookie behind two other relatively inexperienced players. Now, we've got an incredibly experienced starter, and two backups who have at least some starting experience, and neither of whom will be very happy as the third choice. There have been some mixed signals from the team lately (leaving both unprotected in the expansion draft, then pulling back Seitz, seen by some as the lesser choice, after Salinas was selected; exposing Seitz in the Re-Entry draft), but I think it boils down to two scenarios:

  • Scenario A: Seitz is preferred. Seitz was initially exposed in the Expansion Draft due to lack of spaces and tactical drafting assumptions, then pulled back after Salinas's exit as a show of faith in him, and to demonstrate that he's seen as the starter of the future. The Re-Entry draft was about negotiating his contract down, as he's making a lot more than he's worth as a backup. After the expansion draft, Peter talked about the "significant investment" made in Seitz, alluding to his pedigree and potential.
  • Scenario B: Knighton is preferred. Knowing they had Knighton tied down at league minimum and all things equal, preferring the cheaper option, the team focused on trying to negotiate down Seitz's salary via the re-entry draft in order to boost his trade value. The Expansion Draft pull-back was about protecting the more valuable player, as Seitz is younger, more widely known, and has a superior pedigree (Generation Adidas, Youth Caps, Olympic Team versus  Knighton making New England as an undrafted trialist). The "significant investment" talk was about protecting an asset they paid a lot for.

Either way, I'd be surprised if we started the 2011 season with three keepers on the roster.

Going back to Mondragon, we might be seeing people worried about his age and purported DP salary. I won't be one of them. Pat Onstad and Kasey Keller have shown you can win things with a keeper older than dirt, and we saw this past year with Kevin Hartman what a stud keeper is worth to a team. I'm glad that our coaching staff is able to identify problem areas and seek out creative solutions.

Speaking of problem areas, losing Alejandro Moreno in the Expansion draft leaves us light up top. We know Seba Le Toux is more than comfortable there, and Danny Mwanga has earned himself a starting spot with his output last year, but the front line is still a bit shallow. We're a Dema Kovalenko tackle or two from starting  Nick Zimmerman and Jack McInerney, and loaning in bench players from Harrisburg. Keen observers may have noted, however, that our new keeper is tight with newly available Juan Pablo Angel, formerly of that bedpan up the highway. In fact, Angel is the godfather of Mondragon's son. This deal may be part of a larger bid to bring in JPA. He may be thirty-five, and not entirely mobile anymore, but he's still got a scorer's touch, and could thrive with service from Seba Le Toux, who does the running of two players anyway. Former Pink Cow or not, we'd be foolish to turn our noses up at a 10-15 goal striker who moves shirts by the truckload. And having left under acrimonious circumstances, he'd surely be up for some payback.