OBETZ, Ohio – There’s nothing unclear in the message Crew management sent to forward Andres Mendoza when they made him the club’s lone Designated Player.
“It doesn’t matter what he’s making or if he’s the DP, as a forward, he has to score goals,” coach Robert Warzycha said.
Mendoza, 32, understands the weight is on him. In the offseason, Columbus lost players that combined for over half of the team's goals in 2010.
“It’s not really pressure,” the Peruvian said via a translator. “I’ve got to give 100 percent all the time.”
There were glimpses of what he could do in the limited amount of time he was with the Crew at the end of 2010.
After a protracted process to earn his release from Turkish club Diyarbakırspor, Mendoza made his MLS debut on Sept. 4 as a subsitute against D.C. United and, a week later, came off the bench again to score a late goal at Los Angeles.
[inline_node:329187]It was a meaningless goal for the team but it took some of the pressure off him, especially since he was out of shape when he joined the Crew. He added a second goal in the regular season finale against Philadelphia.
In total, Mendoza made eight league appearances totaling 204 minutes, with a lone start coming on Oct. 8 at Chicago. The forward fared better in the Champions League, where the two goals he scored in four games were winners.
After getting a brief taste of MLS last year, he arrived at camp in January determined to be fitter and dispel criticism that he was inconsistent.
“When I came in [last season], I wasn’t at 100 percent,” he said. “Now I am and will give 100 percent. It will be a different Andrés Mendoza.”
He said he learned that in order to succeed, he will need to play at a faster pace, and having a full preseason with the Crew has made him more comfortable than his first venture.
“It’s a lot better,” Mendoza said. “It’s not like I didn’t do anything for five month this time. We all started working together early and I feel better.
“I think I did well this preseason. The important thing is to do well as a team. For myself, I want to score some goals and help the team win.”
Warzycha likes what he’s seen from Mendoza so far this year, which included the Crew’s lone goal in the two-game Champions League quarterfinals series vs. Real Salt Lake.
“He has shown in the preseason games he can be very effective and he knows how to play with the team,” Warzycha said. “We saw him play a few times with different clubs, so we knew he was a good player. More than anything, he had to win the trust of his teammates.
"The way he’s playing right now and scoring the goals, everybody is buying into him and believing in him.”