Carlos Mendes captained the Cosmos for five seasons. (Andy Mead/YCJ Photo)
By Michael Lewis
Carlos Mendes is back with the Cosmos.
The former Cosmos captain Friday was named head coach of the Cosmos B team that will play in the National Premier Soccer League.
“First of all, we’ve been a family and Carlos is an important part of the family,” Cosmos Chief Operating Officer Erik Stover told FrontRowSoccer.com. “Keeping the opportunity in the family makes a lot of sense.
“He’s obviously shown the leadership skills on and off the field over the years. He’s not only a leader within the team, but he’s also a leader in the community. This is really a grass-roots based organization, particularly for Cosmos B. He brings those intangibles to the table.
“Tactically, he’s the right kind of guy for us. We’ve always been a possession-based team. He’s had the technical skills to play that type of soccer. That’s the type of soccer he enjoys. I’m sure he’ll bring that to his coaching techniques, so we can keep that tradition going.”
The 37-year-old Mendes, a Mineola, N.Y. native, helped the Cosmos win three North American Soccer League titles (2013, 2015 and 2016) in the past five years. The Cosmos will not field a team in 2018, because the NASL will not compete.
The B team, however, will.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity,” Mendes told FrontRowSoccer.com. “For me, its an excting challenge, one that I’m looking forward to. The club has meant a lot to me, a great five years. To transition now and be a part of the club. I’m very excited.
“I think I’m going to learn a lot about myself about the whole process. When you’re playing pro for a long time, there is a whole other side to it. That will be part of building a roster, bringing players in. Obviously, trying to be the best coach I can possibly be. It’s soemthing that I’m going to be good at, something I am going to love. I’m passionate. I’m excited about it. It will be be a big task.”
Mendes, who was named to the NASL Best XI three times, realized his learning curve will be great.
“When you’re playing it’s always easy to say, ‘I’d do this or I’d do that’ and you have your own opinions whatever they may be,” he said. “When you really step onto the outside of it looking at it from s different angle, they’re completely different challenges. I am going in with an open mind. I think I am humble enough to realize that this is not going to be an easy process. It takes time, It takes experience. These are all things to get better you need to put in your time and learn other people.
“I think I connect well with people. I’m looking forward to managing guys. If you can do all those simple things, I think that’s already a step in the right direction and the rest will come with, again, experience making mistakes and learning and trying to surround yourself with the best possible people.”
Mendes hoped to bring in as many Cosmos to play for the NPSL squad and use young promising talent from the metropolitan area.
“We would love to do that,” he said. “We would love to bring as many guys connected to the club that have experience and have played at good levels. At any level you’re going to need experience. I also it will be a good combination of young players, talented players to grow and play at a competitive level.”
The biggest priority right now is building the roster.
“We’re a little bit late in the game,” Mendes said. “We’re delayed because of the situation. For us, it’s to make sure we pull together all our resources and build the best roster we can.”
Mendes, who finished a 16-year professional career with the Cosmos in 2017, has had some impressive mentors. He played for some of the highest profile coaches locally, regionally and nationally. That included Bob Bradley (MetroStars), Bruce Arena (Red Bulls), Giovanni Savarese (Cosmos), Paul Riley (Long Island Rough Riders), Pat Ercoli (Rochester Rhinos), Juan Carlos Osorio (Red Bulls) and Robert Warzycha (Columbus Crew SC).
“I’ve been very fortunate as a player to play for great coaches,” he said. “This goes way back to the youth level. I had Cordt Weinstein as a youth coach that were playing professionally for the Long Island Rough Riders. I was very, very lucky that way. Obviously, that was a big part of my development. I’ll be honest. I will lean on friends and coaches that I started relationships with, to learn and to try to grow on this side of it and try to become the best possible coach I can. I’m very lucky to have so many good connections and so many good people around that I think will help if I’m going to be successful, be a big part of it.”
Stover said the original idea to hire Mendes came from Cosmos executive Joe Barone.
“We were meeting with Rocco (Commisso, the team owner) discussing different ideas about the future,” he said. “Joe suggested Carlos. He managed the negotiations. I think it’s absolutely the right call.”
Mendes played in 111 regular-season matches with the Cosmos and another eight playoff games. He became the first Cosmos player in modern history to reach 100 matches.
He turned pro in 2002, helping the Rough Riders to the USL Pro title. He joined the Rhinos the next season before moving to the MetroStars (now the Red Bulls) for 2005. He also performed for the Columbus Crew before joining the Cosmos for the 2013 season.
The Cosmos B squad will open up at Boston City FC in Harry Della Russo Stadium Saturday, May 5 at 7 p.m. The team will host the rival Brooklyn Italians at the Mitchel Athletic Complex, Tuesday, May 15 at 8 p.m., according to the NPSL website.
Tryouts will be held on March 19, 20 and 23 from 7-9 p.m. on Long Island. The venue will be TBD.
“All the snow has thrown a monkey wrench into the plans,” Stover said. “It should be at least two rounds of tryouts.”
Stover added that Mendes already has started negotiations with some potential players.
“I know that Carlos is deep in conversations with people he wants on the team,” he said. “So I think that’s a good sign. We have a little more time for this NPSL season for this season to get a team together.”
Luis Gutierrez will return as fitness coach and Steven Diaz as goalkeeper coach.