Carlos Mendes: “After a couple of weeks you start itching, you start going crazy.” (Andy Mead/YCJ Photo)
By Michael Lewis
UNIONDALE, N.Y. — For someone who has played nearly 300 professional soccer games over the past 15 years, you can understand why Carlos Mendes has become a bit antsy watching from the Cosmos sidelines the past few weeks.
The Cosmos captain and center back has been out of action due to a hamstring since playing in the season-opening scoreless draw at Puerto Rico FC March 25.
“When you get injured it’s always tough especially early in the season right after the first game,” Mendes said after training at Mitchel Athletic Complex Wednesday.
“After a couple of weeks you start itching, you start going crazy,” he added later. “It’s all part of it. It’s what we love to do most, but I’m happy to be back.”
Whether Mendes will be happy and be part of the Starting XI come Saturday night, when the Cosmos (2-1-2, eight points) visit undefeated and first-place Jacksonville Armada FC (2-0-3, nine), is another story.
The North American Soccer League Best XI selection started training with the team last week and appears to be ready for selection. It will be up to head coach Giovanni Savarese to make that decision whether Mendes dresses, is part of the bench or the starting lineup.
“He’s getting closer to being available,” Savarese said. “Maybe this weekend he may be available. We have to decide if it would be the right opportunity or the right time or make him play or not.”
Obviously, the 36-year-old Mendes is biased. He would rather play, but he isn’t about to rush anything and reinjure his hamstring.
“The plan for me is day by day, get a good week, a solid week,” he said. “I started doing some things with the team last week. It wasn’t full yet. Now it’s the first week of full training, we’ll see what happens. The goal right now is to make sure we’re smart about it, keep strengthening, get that game rhythm back and we’ll see what happens for the weekend.”
Mendes has been heartened by the fact the team is accruing points.
“The most important thing is that we’re getting the results,” he said. “That helps your mood, too. When you’re watching the boys and they’re pulling results and getting important points. That will lift you too when you’re on the side.”
Just as impressive has been the fact the team has been able to register three successive road clean sheets, no mean feat at any level of the game.
Besides the season-opener, the Cosmos have blanked Miami FC, 2-0, April 8, and the San Francisco Deltas, 1-0, April 29. Translated: New York hasn’t surrendered a road goal yet this spring season.
David Ochieng and Dejan Jakovic have manned the center back spots during that span.
“That’s a good sign,” Mendes said. “That’s difficult to do. These are tough matches and not giving up a goal on the road, that says something about the team. If we continue that, I think we’ll have a successful season. There are even things to improve on things that can get better.”