Soccer has again smiled on Peruvian forward Andrés Mendoza. A prolific career full of both achievements and controversy has led "The Condor” to a new challenge: Major League Soccer.
After finalizing his signing with Columbus until the season’s end with a one-year option, Mendoza debuted in the Crew’s 1-0 win over D.C. United and scored his first MLS career goal in a 3-1 defeat to the Los Angeles Galaxy on Saturday.
WATCH: Mendoza slots past Ricketts
The goalscorer says he’s happy and feels comfortable in the team that gave him the opportunity to again show his skills.
“I’m training well and my teammates are kind and received me well,” Mendoza told MLSsoccer.com. “I had the opportunity to play some minutes [against D.C.], and I hope to have the chance to play more games and more minutes, too.”
Making the adaptation process a bit easier for Mendoza is the presence of fellow South Americans Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Gino Padula and Emilio Renteria.
“They’re good teammates, and they help me out with the language,” Mendoza said. “They talk to me about the team and it’s good to have South American teammates.”
That tranquility and satisfaction should help Mendoza enjoy the sport without any added issues.
And that’s because, throughout his 14 years as a pro, Mendoza has tasted both sweet triumph and very bitter defeat. The striker had successful stints with Sporting Cristal (Peru) and Brujas KV (Belgium), among others. But as one of many talented Peruvians, he has gone through two disastrous World Cup-qualifying campaigns and, on top of that, once received a suspension from his country’s soccer federation.
Nevertheless, Mendoza says that because of his successful and somewhat rollercoaster career, he can contribute much to his new team and league, especially with all the experience he’s gained playing abroad.
For the striker, one of the main factors in his decision to come to the U.S. was the big-name players in MLS – David Beckham, Thierry Henry and Rafa Márquez, to name a few.
“Since 2009, the Crew have been after me,” Mendoza said. “I thought about it, but went to Turkey [instead]. Now I’m here, though. The important thing is that American soccer is very attractive. The game here is fast and there are important players that come from Europe here. I think that the quality here has improved a lot.”
While Mendoza said winning the Supporters' Shield and MLS Cup with the Crew is a priority, he’s also focused on factoring into Peru’s national team.
After a three year absence from la Blanquirroja, Mendoza still thinks he can help the team and laments the decline that the Peruvian national team has suffered in the last few years.
“[Peru’s decline] is frustrating because, despite the amount of quality there is, the team can’t get to a World Cup,” said Mendoza, who blames a lack of leadership in the past for Peru’s WC-qualifying failures. “But now, with the new coach [Sergio Markarián], I think things will change. There will be another class of players, a different style of play.”
Even though getting called back to the national team would be magnificent news for Mendoza, he knows exactly what he’d have to put up with if that were the case.
In 2007, Mendoza and Peru teammates Sergio Acasiete, Jeffersón Farfán and Claudio Pizarro were suspended indefinitely by the Peruvian Soccer Federation due to acts of indiscipline stemming from a 1-1 draw against Brazil in Lima during the 2010 World Cup qualifiers.
However, that suspension was reduced to 18 months and a $20,000 fine.
Mendoza feels he has paid in more ways than just money for that error, and hopes to get another chance.
“[That suspension] affected me a lot,” Mendoza admitted. “I would go to Peru but couldn’t go out because people on the streets harassed me and my family. Soccer-wise, [it didn’t affect me] as much, because luckily I went to Mexico to play [for Morelia] and things went well.
“But I think that issue is gone now. The new coach has said the doors are open for everyone,” Mendoza continued. “They’ll call upon me at some point. They’ve already called Acasiete, Farfán and Pizarro … so I think that the issue has passed.”
The fact that Markarián and Mendoza have a previous working relationship automatically triples Mendoza’s chances of returning to the international scene.
“Markarián knows me," Mendoza said. "He gave me the chance to play [at Sporting Cristal] and I made my debut there under him. Things turned out well there. He knows me, my style of soccer and I hope he calls upon me some day.”
Until then, the Condor will spread his wings, focus on the Crew and MLS, and hopefully soar in his attempt to lift his new team to a domestic treble.