The M.E.N.D.O.Z.A. System, Part 1: Demonstrate Value.

Note: I almost posted this blog last week, but I doubted whether or not the analogy was apt, or whether I should add another voice to Mendoza Mania.  After Saturday, June 11, 2011, there’s no doubt anymore.  It is, and I shall.

It’s time to be honest with one another, supporters of the Columbus Crew.  Now comes the moment when we all must admit that we are so in love with Andres Mendoza that we don’t even know it, and here’s why: he’s running a D.E.N.N.I.S. on us.

Sure, you think that you don’t love him.  You think that you’re put off by the way he plays the game and conducts himself on the pitch.  You might even think that you hate his perceived lack of effort, especially since he bears the mantle of “Designated Player” on the “Hardest Working Team in America,” and you find his near total ineffectiveness with anything other than his left foot to be bewildering.  But, oh, you are so, so madly in love with him.   I dare say that your love for him burns at temperatures that far surpass the hot, bullish desire that smoldered in the halls of 1 Black & Gold Boulevard as the Crew brain trust diligently pursued and sanguinely signed him, doe-eyed and with every last lash batted, in September of 2010

That’s how getting D.E.N.N.I.S.-ed works, you see.  (Perhaps you are saying to yourself right now “What does it mean, getting D.E.N.N.I.S.-ed?” If you’re not familiar with the concept, there are any number of Internet avenues available to you from which to learn about the “D.E.N.N.I.S. System” as described by the character Dennis Reynolds on the television show It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.  Take a couple moments and Google away.)  You may think, much like Sweet Dee (another character on the show) might were she a Crew supporter, that Mendoza’s not winning our hearts.  Instead, he’s torturing us and we will end up hating him.  On the contrary, through the D.E.N.N.I.S. System, we will end up loving Mendoza more than we ever thought was possible; and it’s all due to this comprehensive approach to seduction that Andres has perfected, allowing him to become the designated player that he is today.  The D.E.N.N.I.S. System is a six part program:

D – Demonstrate Value
E – Engage Physically
N – Nurturing Dependence
N – Neglect Emotionally
I – Inspire Hope
S – Separate Entirely

Keep those six points in mind.  They are crucial to understanding your true feelings about our designated player.  Got it?  Okay.  Let's begin.

1. Demonstrate Value

“We are excited to add a player of Andres’s experience and quality,” said manager Robert Warzycha, back in September 2010.  “He is a proven goal scorer who has represented his country at the international level, and we are looking forward to integrating him into our team.”

The majority of Crew supporters didn’t know much about Andres, so when our phlegmatic manager—whom we’ve known to be consistently phlegmatic as a player and coach since ’96—comes out with a statement voicing his excitement, well, we took a little notice.  Many started scouring the usual Internet sources, looking for information about the new Crew striker.  It didn’t take long (partly because fans of the Peru National Team came to Columbus Crew forums and websites with a willingness to share their knowledge) until this little nugget jumped to the top of the list:

That happened at 2-2 in the 89th minute of a World Cup qualifier versus Ecuador in 2005.  Now, I have a confession to make: I’ve never been in that position, late in a WCQ with my country’s hopes resting solely upon my foot; and, unless this very new blog has inexplicably and suddenly gained a readership among international-quality soccer players, I’m going to take a guess and say that you’ve never been in that position, either.  Despite my total lack of relatable experience, when I saw that video for the first time, I felt sympathy, if not empathy, for Andres Mendoza.  If you play team sports long enough, you will eventually experience the feeling of letting down your team.  If you have a soul and use it in your daily life, at moments like that you can feel it wanting to get free from your inadequate body and hide.  Now, take whatever experience you’ve had with that kind of failure and amplify it times 100,000 or 10,000,000 or 100,000,000 and you just might have something like the feeling of blowing an open-net sitter in international World Cup qualifying.  It doesn’t make much difference that Peru is hardly a world soccer power.  Peru isn’t even all that relevant in its region (CONMEBOL), currently 7 out of ten countries and number 54 in the world.  The last time that Peru qualified for the World Cup out of CONMEBOL was in 1982, so one might reasonably guess that there are two ways Peruvians might have reacted to this play: 1) No one really expects that much out of Peru, anyway, so it wasn’t that big of a deal in the scheme of things; 2) Stupefied disbelief, then open up a can of visceral hatred for their semi-world-class national team striker.  I can’t say that I know which reaction was more prevalent nationwide in Peru, but you can certainly hear #2 in the voices of the fans in the stadium and in the voice of the commentators.

That is, still to this day, the principal moment that a lot of Peruvian soccer fans think of when they think of Andres. It’s a moment that displays world-class prowess and awful ineptitude all in the span of 2 seconds.  To play a ball down, at that angle, with that kind of pressure and defenders around him, then to settle it down into a textbook goal-scoring position was truly a wonderful bit of skill—only to follow up with such a bad miss.  Perhaps that is why he’s been known by two nicknames—La Pantera and El Condor.  The first part of that play was all La Pantera; the second part seemed to be quite El Condor.

It’s hard to say exactly what sold Crew decision-makers on La Pantera/El Condor.  They certainly had their reasons.  When the rumors about Mendoza started to come out among those who frequent Crew message boards and news sites, there were equal parts enthusiasm and apprehension.  Mendoza had been training with the team for a few weeks while, one would guess, paperwork and salary details were finalized.  It appeared that the Crew had made a decision to get an international striker to pair with Emilio Renteria and play in front of Guillermo Barros Schelotto: forming a pan-South American attack force that would relieve the scoring woes and send Columbus back to the top of the table for an unprecedented third-consecutive Supporters’ Shield.  Forget the WCQ against Ecuador, the guy can do things like this against AC Milan!  

Whoaaaa! Are you kidding me?!  Signhimsignhimsignhim!  As July turned into August, and August into September, the question became “What are they waiting for?”

That's when we kinda-sorta found out what they were waiting for: salary cap space.  The question would more-or-less be answered the night that the Crew won a thrilling, nationally-televised (remember those?) victory in Philadelphia behind two goals by Steven "Goalfunkel" Lenhart.  Following the match, it was announced that Jed Zayner, an enormous favorite of Columbus Crew supporters (so much so that he is still immensely loved in the Nordecke despite presently playing for one of our most hated ancient rivals) was traded to DC United.  In the trade, DC United got Zayner (who would go on to be their Defensive Player of the Year for 2010).  The Crew got a 2nd round draft pick—in 2012.  Needless to say, immediate reaction to the trade was that it was astonishingly bad.  Crew supporters were heartbroken to lose one of the best people we knew, someone who loved our city and seemed on the verge of being a leader and spokesman for Columbus for the next five years, and we were angry that all we had to show for it was a freaking 2nd round 2012 draft pick.

And then came the signing of Mendoza, and the reason for the trade became obvious: it was to clear salary cap space for our new striker.  La Pantera/El Condor had demonstrated his value to Crew FO.  To make room, they’d traded away a player who Crew supporters valued highly, and traded him to an archrival, no less.  Crew supporters now had a lot of value invested in Andres Mendoza.  

Next time, The M.E.N.D.O.Z.A. System, Part 2: Engage Physically.