Union sign veteran goalkeeper Mondragon, central defender Valdes
The Union vowed at the end of their first season that they would improve in all phases, and defense was addressed Thursday with the signing of two Colombian players.
The team came to terms with goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon and central defender Carlos Valdes, moves the team hopes will shore up its most glaring weakness last season.
In going 8-15-7 during their inaugural Major League Soccer season, the Union allowed 49 goals, which was tied for the second-most in the league behind only New England, which yielded 50.
"We know what the problem was, and we have tried to improve it with the addition of Faryd and drafting of Zac MacMath," Union team manager Peter Nowak said Thursday.
MacMath is the goalkeeper the Union selected with the fifth overall selection in last week's MLS SuperDraft. The Union also has backup keeper Brad Knighton on the roster.
When asked if Knighton would return, Nowak replied: "Things still aren't finalized, so I can't say anything."
The move also signals that the Union are looking to win now, a departure from last year when they allowed 23-year-old keeper Chris Seitz to make mistakes in his first season as a full-time starter. Seitz was selected by Seattle in the second stage of the reentry draft in December and then traded by the Sounders to FC Dallas for a fourth-round pick in the 2012 SuperDraft.
Mondragon, who competed most recently in Germany's topflight Bundesliga for FC Cologne, turns 40 on June 21. He has 50 caps with the Colombian national team.
"He still has a lot of game left," said Union assistant Rob Vartughian, who works with the keepers.
Mondragon isn't worried about his age, either.
"If I had not been fit the last few years, I wouldn't be playing in one of the top three leagues in Europe, Bundesliga," Mondragon said. "At the end of the day, it's what I show on the field, and I think my performance will speak for itself."
Mondragon has played at the Union's home field, PPL Park in Chester, starting for Colombia in a scoreless draw with the United States in an international friendly on Oct. 12. The crowd of 8,823 made an impression on him.
"It was really exciting to play there, and something told me I would be here one day," Mondragon said.
Valdes, who turns 26 on May 22, made his first appearance with the Colombian national team in 2008 and has four caps. Last season, he competed for Club Independiente Santa Fe in Colombia.
It will be interesting to see what the addition of Valdes has on central defender and team captain Danny Califf.
Califf and Michael Orozco Fiscal were the prime central defenders last season, although Orozco Fiscal also played on the outside.
Orozco Fiscal and midfielder Roger Torres were on loan last season, and the Union must seek permanent transfers.
Nowak said he was confident that both would return. He said the negotiations concerning Torres were a little further along at this point.
Is bringing in another central defender a bad sign for Califf?
"Danny is a competitive guy, and everybody on our team will be competing for a spot," Nowak said. "I believe this is a good situation for the team."
The Union will begin their first training session on Monday and open the season March 19 at Houston. They host Vancouver in their first home game on March 26.
Watch video interviews with the Union's new players on The Goalkeeper, Philly.com's soccer blog: http://go.philly.com/tgk
Contact staff writer Marc Narducci at 856-779-3225 or firstname.lastname@example.org.