The Union's Faryd Mondragon has had a franchise-altering season that resulted in his selection to Wednesday's Major League Soccer All-Star Game. Along every step, the 40-year-old multilingual goalkeeper has gone out of his way to show his appreciation to people working at all levels of the organization.
Even the equipment manager drew high praise.
"I thank everybody, from ownership to front office to technical staff - especially my lads I call my players who make my job very easy," Mondragon said last week. "Everybody, including the equipment manager, has helped me since day one on this club."
In turn, Mondragon, who has earned 50 caps playing for the Colombian national team, has done his share, and it goes well beyond the statistics, although they are impressive.
Mondragon and his fellow MLS all-stars will meet Manchester United in Wednesday's 8:55 p.m. game at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J., home of the New York Red Bulls.
According to MLS player union figures, Mondragon is the highest-paid player on the Union, earning $396,666 in guaranteed compensation. He is signed through next season, with a team option for 2013.
His signing turned the entire culture of the team around, not to mention its confidence.
In their inaugural 8-15-7 season, the Union's biggest weakness was between the pipes. The team had built so much of its hope on keeper Chris Seitz, a player who was well respected and liked. The only problem was that Seitz allowed several preventable goals.
The Union surrendered 49 goals, tied for second worst in MLS, behind only the 50 allowed by the New England Revolution.
Neither Seitz nor his backup, Brad Knighton, gave the management confidence, and it's not surprising that neither is with the team now.
In came Mondragon, and he immediately put his imprint on the Union. A leader from day one, Mondragon is the team captain, a job he has taken seriously.
"The best aspect is that he has provided veteran leadership in that position, where last year we had young players there," Union assistant coach John Hackworth said.
This season, Mondragon has played every minute. He has a 0.84 goals-against average and seven shutouts for a team that had just two shutouts last year.
Mondragon is always the first to point out the stellar defense in front of him.
Carlos Valdes, like Mondragon a newcomer this year, has played at an all-star level. Fellow central defender Danny Califf and outside back Sheanon Williams also have been outstanding. With the recent trade of outside back Jordan Harvey to Vancouver, Gabe Farfan has stepped in and done a solid job.
The defense has been so strong that Mondragon hasn't been seriously tested in several games.
"As a keeper, the most impressive thing for me is the way he organizes his defense, communicating with them, and that helps prevent a lot of goals," said Union CEO and operating partner Nick Sakiewicz, a former pro goalkeeper.
Holder waived. Goalkeeper Thorne Holder was waived Tuesday. Acquired during 2011 preseason training, Holder has yet to make his MLS debut.