AFC Ann Arbor are pleased to welcome Devin Mendez in for the 2019 NPSL season. Mendez joins soon-to-be club and collegiate teammate Ryan Pierson as the second member of the University of Detroit roster on this season’s side. Mendez spent the 2017 season on the sidelines as a redshirt but featured prominently with the Titans as a redshirt freshman last season. Interestingly enough, he will be the second UDM goalkeeper (past or present) involved with The Mighty Oak on any level this season – women’s goalkeeping coach Jim Grewe played for the Titans from 1997-2000.
Wearing the number one shirt on a collegiate level, Mendez described his season as a “baptism of fire”. He started the majority of games in net, making fourteen starts in fifteen appearances. Indeed, the redshirt freshman netminder was tested on a frequent basis as he saw 201 shots and was forced into making 54 saves. He saw one shot for nearly every seven minutes spent in net, and averaged 3.64 saves per appearance. Despite the lack of team success for the Horizon League side, Mendez acknowledges that it has made him a better player, saying, “I believe that I learned a lot from my mistakes and have become much better from them. I hope that my new mentality on getting better every day and winning will help me succeed in the NPSL season.”
In addition to his collegiate experience with Detroit, Mendez was a standout in high school. A native of Tecumseh, Michigan, and attendee of Tecumseh High School, Mendez was an All-State goalkeeper as a senior who also set single-season records for shutouts, saves, and fewest goals allowed. With Tecumseh just a forty-five-minute drive down US-12, the newest member to the AFCAA Family has a connection to the town itself. As he stated, “Ann Arbor has always been a second home to me so I am very excited to finally wear the AFC crest.” With an already established understanding and love for the city, it should make it that much easier for Mendez to mesh well over the summer season.
When discussing his game itself in net, Mendez responded, “Some of my greatest strengths as a goalkeeper are my shot stopping ability and strength.” This should come as no surprise, considering his workload in terms of making saves both at the high school and collegiate level, but it follows the trend of AFC goalkeepers who are exceptional shot stoppers. Fans will be well familiar with Mike Novotny, now with the USL Championship’s Hartford Athletic, and TJ Tomasso, a former MLS goalkeeper in his own right, along with other keepers such as Nick Barry, who performed brilliantly in net after Novotny’s exit to play professional in Sweden. Each different keeper had their own style, but all were superb in making timely saves. With Jeff Shuk the man coaching Mendez this summer, the hope will surely be that when in net, he will follow the mark that the goalies before him had set.
On a more personal level, Mendez responded to the question of what drew him to AFC as a club by saying, “I was attracted to the club because of their amazing fan base and previous record. I am very excited to play in front of the people of Ann Arbor and give them my all on the field.” It is no surprise, by now, that players want to play within a winning culture that head coach Eric Rudland has helped foster in front of a supportive fanbase.
“I am expecting to come into a team that is focused on winning the title,” Mendez said, when speaking about goals. He continued, saying, “So, I believe this season is going to be a great learning experience for me, and hopefully I can help them to continue their winning ways.” Excitement is certainly in the air for all involved with the club, and with the addition of Mendez, the hope is that when called upon, he will be able to provide a spark to deliver in net.
About AFC Ann Arbor
Founded in 2014, Association Football Club Ann Arbor launched it’s men’s semi-pro team in 2015 and has competed in the NPSL since 2016. Led by Head Coach & Sporting Director, Eric Rudland, the team has found great success winning back to back Great Lakes Championships (‘17 & ‘18) and earning US Open Cup bids three straight years (2017-2019). In October 2018, the club announced the launch of the women’s side, who will be skippered by Andy “Pritch” Pritchard in their inaugural season of the United Women’s Soccer national league. Owned and operated by a group of local soccer fans and entrepreneurs, AFC Ann Arbor has become a fixture in the greater Ann Arbor community.