What was once looking like a very strong offseason for the Philadelphia Union may have just got a little tougher, as goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon is reportedly leaving the team in order to return to Colombian club Deportivo Cali. Mondragon is quoted in Colombian publication Nuevo Estadio as saying he has signed a one-year contract to finish out his career with the team for whom he made his professional debut in 1990 (h/t Brotherly Game).
"I'm very happy because things have worked out, I am going to Deportivo Cali with a one-year contract, I feel I identified with the new Board and I have decided to agree to return to my beloved team," said Mondragon.
While there seems to be some details still to be worked out, the story indicates that this is essentially a done deal. Of course, the Union also told Philly Soccer Page on Sunday that there had been no contact between the team and Deportivo Cali. These would seem to be mutually exclusive versions of the story, so clearly someone is not being entirely honest. For the sake of this conversation, though, let's assume Mondragon's quotes are not completely fabricated.
Mondragon's absence would leave the Union with one of two choices. The simplest would be to hand over the starting reins to Zac MacMath, who doesn't even turn 21 until this summer. MacMath performed admirably during Mondragon's injury last year, going 3-0-3, allowing eight goals and stopping 67 percent of the shots he faced. If that is the option Union coach Peter Nowak goes with, he would be counting on MacMath making history. No MLS goalkeeper younger than 24 has ever won a playoff round. If any goalkeeper is capable of bucking that trend, though, MacMath could be it.
The other option would be going out and finding another goalkeeper. The MLS transfer window remains open until mid-April, so the Union have plenty of time, but they'd basically be looking at acquiring someone from Europe who's basically out of contract or trading within MLS. Neither is exactly ideal, but could definitely yield a useful player.
The unfortunate part of this for the Union isn't so much losing Mondragon. MacMath may very well have been the better goalkeeper both now and in the future. The problem is that this seems to have caught the Union by surprise, or at least that's what we're left to believe as MacMath would be the only goalkeeper on the current roster.
For more on this situation, be sure to check out Union blog Brotherly Game.