Mendes Reflects On Cosmos Career

New York Captain nearing end of legendary career
Published Oct 28, 2017

For a time, the New York Cosmos consisted of only one man, Carlos Mendes.

On December 11, 2012, the Mineola native was the first player signed by the rebooted New York Cosmos. At the time, it was improbable to know of what the next five years would consist of.

“When I first signed, it was me, coach Gio and two or three staff members trying to get in shape,” Mendes said. “To see where the club has gone and the championships and the players I’ve played with, it’s been an honor.”

Three championships and many teammates later, Mendes will look to go out on top, as he announced on September 30th that the 2017 season would be his last as a player. It was a decision that wasn’t easy.

“I feel like now is the right time to step away for me,” Mendes said. “Mentally, I’m ready. I want to go out while I’m still playing and I still feel good physically.”

Mendes has been at the top of his game since joining the Cosmos. In 116 NASL Regular Season and postseason games, Mendes has played 10,236 minutes in a Cosmos uniform.

The captaincy has been Mendes’ for his entire tenure with the club, and he believes it’s an important role to have as a veteran professional soccer player.

“If you carry yourself in a mature way and you come to work every day and give 100 percent, the rest of the players feed off that,” Mendes said of the captaincy. “Stepping on the field, giving 100 percent, that’s the most important thing.”

Giving his all led Mendes to success with the Cosmos. Over his first four years in green, Mendes ranked on the top three in the club in games played. However, he was unable to play in as many games this season because of injuries.

“It happens,” Mendes said of the ailments. “We have a deep squad and guys have stepped in and done a great job.”

A deep squad. That is what Mendes hoped to be a part of when he first signed on in 2012. In five years in New York, Mendes has been a part of many strong teams, and he said the current squad is comparable.

“We’re similar in a sense that we have a very deep team. We have a good mix of young and experienced players,” he said. “The difference is that after all the movement last year, I think this team has taken more time to gel in general. We’ve had a little bit more ups and downs, and all those things that most teams go through.”

Arguably the deepest Cosmos team during the rebooted era was the 2015 squad. That season, international superstars Raúl and Marcos Senna both announced they would retire at the conclusion of the season. Mendes and the rest of the Cosmos made sure the legends went out on top. Now, a different group of Cosmos are looking to send their captain out the same way.

“Everyone wants to go out on top and we were able to win a Championship and they retired as champions. Any player would want that,” Mendes said of his former teammates. “But for me, it’s just focusing on helping this team any way I can and finishing with another Championship.”

While a title is important for a player in any stage of his career, three titles with the Cosmos have been especially meaningful to Mendes, who grew up on Long Island and has played most of his professional career in the New York area. First, he became the backbone of the New York MetroStars/Red Bulls defense from 2005-11. After a season with the Columbus Crew in 2012, Mendes returned home to New York to join the Cosmos.

“I’m lucky. Not many guys get to do it. Not just to have a professional career and to play most of my career in New York, I’ve been blessed that way,” he said. “Timing was perfect for me and gave me the opportunity to come back to New York and retire here. That was special.”

On Long Island, Mendes is someone to look up to a symbol of what can be achieved through hard work and dedication. For fellow Long Islander and defender, Jimmy Mulligan, Mendes is the perfect role model.

“Being from Long Island and looking up to a guy like that has been amazing. He’s taught me so much on the field defensively. I’m so grateful and thankful for everything he’s ever done for me,” Mulligan said of Mendes. “He’s one of my best friends. He’s taught me so much on and off the field.”

Statements like that would make Mendes proud, as he said he hopes younger players can learn from his example.

However, Mendes is not quite done yet, as the Cosmos need three points on Saturday night to clinch a playoff spot. While the game figures to be an emotional one, the Cosmos and their captain will need to be mentally and physically strong to overcome the challenge and make the playoffs for the fifth straight season.

“It will be emotional for me. I’ll have a lot of family and friends there and people that have supported me throughout my career,” Mendes said. “All those things are amazing, but we have to win the game and secure a spot in the playoffs.”

While Mendes said he would like to remain involved in soccer when he retires as a player, he realizes his legacy is not quite finished yet. However, when asked what he wants to be remembered as, his message was simple.

“I hope people say I represented the club in a great way and that I helped the team in every way possible to win Championships and that I was a player that left everything on the field,” he said of his legacy. “I’m proud to play for the club and I gave it my all.”

Ultimately, Mendes has one last message for everyone that supported him throughout his time in New York.

“I’d like to thank the fans and the organization for believing in me and I’ve enjoyed every moment. Hopefully we can end on a high note this year,” he said.

The Cosmos will look to end their home schedule on a high note on Saturday at 7 p.m. against Puerto Rico FC. Great seats are still available. To purchase tickets, click here