Carlos Mendes: “Oh man, I think every player, if you ask them to go out on top in your last game, it’s something that everyone would dream of.” (Andy Mead/YCJ Photo)
By Michael Lewis
UNIONDALE, N.Y. — When Raul and Marcos Senna retired two years ago, go the Cosmos wanted to make sure those two Spanish greats went out as winners.
The Cosmos complied, capturing the North American Soccer League title.
Fast forward to 2017. They want to do the same thing for captain Carlos Mendes, who is closing out 16-year career against the host San Francisco Deltas in The Championship Sunday.
“He’s the captain. He deserves to retire as a champion because he’s a very good guy,” midfielder Andres Flores said after training at the Mitchel Athletic Complex Wednesday. “He’s had a very important career and we’re trying to give him what he deserves. We’re working for that. We’re going to try to give him the retirement that he deserves.”
Mendes, 37, was the first player signed by the Cosmos in their second incarnation and he has been with the team since Day One. For the record, Mendes has played in 111 regular-season games, starting in all but one, and has performed in seven playoff games.
“He deserves it,” goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer said. “I can’t say enough about Carlos on and off the field.”
Maurer has been impressed with Mendes’ overall performance and fitness, especially in the shootout win over Miami FC in the semifinal win Sunday. The Mineola, N.Y. native played the full 120 minutes.
“He’s just still playing so well right now,” he said. “The job he did against Miami was incredible; 120 minutes and he’s still flying in the 118th, 119th minutes. No slowing down, no cramping. These other younger guys are going out [with cramps]. He’s just trucking along. It would mean a lot to all of us to send him out the right way, send him out as a champion.”
Mendes already has celebrated three NASL championships — in 2013, 2015 and 2016.
“You always want to go out on top,” midfielder Danny Szetela said. “We want to win for him, but we also want to win for ourselves and our families. It would make it more special that if we win The Championship, knowing that this is going to be last game Carlos will play in his professional career.”
Of course, Mendes would love to see the Cosmos make it a grand slam for him.
“Oh man, I think every player, if you ask them to go out on top in your last game, it’s something that everyone would dream of,” he said. “It’s a perfect ending. Playing for fourth title in five years is special. Not many people get to do that. Being my last it would mean so much if I can go out as a champion. Just like we played the last game for Marcos and Raul, and that championship is extra special. Now it’s my turn. So hopefully we’ll come out on top.”