Carlos Mendes: “I am very lucky and honored to be inducted into the Old Dominion University Hall of Fame. I have great memories and it’s a big honor.” (Photo courtesy of the Cosmos)
Carlos Mendes has been inducted into the Old Dominion University Sports Hall of Fame in Norfolk, Va.
The Cosmos head coach played four years at the school, which led to a professional career in Major League Soccer, the North American Soccer League and USL.
“I am very lucky and honored to be inducted into the Old Dominion University Hall of Fame,” Mendes said. “I have great memories and it’s a big honor.”
Mendes, who won’t be able to attend the ceremonies due to a previous commitment, is also a member of the Long Island Soccer Football League, Long Island Soccer Player and Mineola Portuguese Halls of Fame.
The 38-year-old coach reminisced about playing for ODU some two decades ago.
“Looking back, it was a great experience,” he said. “I loved the university, I loved the area, going to Norfolk, Virginia Beach, deciding to go Old Dominion University and playing for coach [Alan] Dawson and play far away from home. It was something that helped me mature. I remember my first year being homesick. It was very difficult because it was the first time I was really away from home for a long time. I was out of my comfort zone. But I think that was a very important part of the process for me to mature as a person, as a player.”
Mendes, who was Dawson’s first recruit, credited his former coach for that.
“I went to go play for a great coach who taught us not just about the game but about respect, discipline and hard work,” he said. “All those things really helped me to prepare me to play professional soccer. I was lucky enough to get that opportunity. It was a big reason why I went away to that college.
“I enjoyed every moment. We had good players, good teams. I had never won anything, but still competing at a high level, it helped me a lot.”
Though ODU did not win any championships, Mendes enjoyed some memorable moments. He remembered his performance at the STIHL Classic, a big early-season tournament hosted by the school during his freshman season.
“It was one of my first games and I started as a freshman and I scored some goals,” he said. “I don’t know how many people were there. Maybe a 1,000 or 2,000 people at the game. I can’t tell you exactly. It felt like there were 30,000 watching. It was the biggest crowd I’ve ever played in front of [until then]. Everyone started chanting my name. It was something. As a young kid, as a 17-year-old being a freshman and scoring goals in one of your first games in front of family, it was very surreal. My family traveled down. It was a big drive for them. I remember that as one of my special moments.”
Mendes did not stop there. He was named the Colonial Athletic Association rookie of the year and earned CAA first team honors three times honors while securing state and regional accolades as well. His ODU experience helped open a door to a 16-year pro soccer career.
“He was a special player and really the foundation that we needed to move forward regionally and nationally,” Dawson was quoted by the ODU website, www.odusports.com. “He was very much the anchor of what I saw in the future, the guy that stabilized everything.”
The Mineola, N.Y. native helped the Long Island Rough Riders win the 2002 USL Pro League title. He went on to play for the Rochester Rhinos (USL), MetroStars/New York Red Bulls and Columbus Crew SC in MLS before captaining the Cosmos to three Soccer Bowl championship during his five-year tenure.
Mendes has guided the Cosmos the past two years. This year’s team reached the National Premier Soccer League final, losing to Miami FC, and finished second in the NPSL Members Cup.