Carlos Mendes
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Crew in search of defensive cover after Mendes departure

The Columbus Crew is disappointed, but not taken aback that defender Carlos Mendes opted not to re-sign with the club in favor of a move to his hometown New York Cosmos, who will be entering the second-tier North American Soccer League in 2013.

Mendes, a 31-year-old native of Mineola, N.Y., appeared in 12 games in an injury-plagued 2012 season for the Crew after seven seasons with the New York MetroStars/Red Bulls.

"I wasn't really surprised," by Mendes' move, Crew Technical Director Brian Bliss told by phone on Tuesday. "We met with him at the end of the year before he went home. I don't think he was using [the Cosmos] as leverage. He had mentioned it might be an option for him."

"We made him an offer and actually tried to boost it up a little bit but he said thanks, but no thanks," Bliss added. "It wasn't about the money. It was about being at home and we respect that."

The depature does mean that Columbus remain thin on the backline, with only Eric Gehrig, Chad Marshall and Josh Williams under contract.

"That's obviously an area  we're trying to upgrade or shore up," Bliss said. "This will give opportunities to some other guys in the system already or to some Homegrown guys as well."

But he also knows Mendes, despite missing 22 games due to hamstring and ankle injuries, was invaluable when he played: the Crew were 7-2-3 with Mendes as a starter.

"You're not going to replace a guy who's got eight, nine years in the League with a rookie," Bliss said. "We're probably going to have to look elsewhere whether it's in the League or somewhere. We do know with some of the guys we have now there is some quality but I don't think you can make that comparison. "

One possibility for the defense is to re-sign veteran Danny O'Rourke, who is out of contract. Bliss said talks with the eight-year veteran are ongoing.

"Regardless of what Mendes did, we want to get Danny signed," Bliss said. "We're pretty close in terms of getting it done. We've always committed to getting Danny re-signed. Danny's been committed to wanting to be here. It's a matter of making both sides happy."