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  • Draft pick Adam Mena back in Vancouver and looking to "make a run and earn a spot"

    Carl Robinson thought so as well and wanted more of a look at the Notre Dame alumni and Mena became one of seven players that the Whitecaps sent down to their USL PRO affiliate Charleston Battery this season.

    "I came here (Vancouver) in preseason and I seemed to do pretty well," Mena told AFTN when we spoke with him after training last week. "Robbo and the coaches thought it would be a good idea to head down to Charleston.

    "I had two knee surgeries before that, so I was out of commission for a good two years and they thought that would be a good spot for me to get some games in and so I did it. I went over there and it was a great time. Nice and warm! But it was good. The partnership seemed to go pretty well. There were a lot of guys from Vancouver there, so like I said, it was a good time."

    It's been a long, tough road for the 25-year-old to get his shot in the pro ranks. Two long term injuries would have sounded the death knell for many a professional player, never mind one just coming out of the college ranks and trying to establish himself.

    "I did my ACL in my senior year, August 2012. Then I had another setback in March 2013. That put me back another six to ten months. I kept in contact with the Whitecaps the whole time after they drafted me and they were very, very good about it, so I was able to come into preseason when I was ready."

    Mena was picked first by the Whitecaps in the 2013 MLS Supplemental Draft, 10th overall, after making 55 appearances with Notre Dame, where he contributed six goals and five assists overall.

    Primarily a left sided midfielder, Mena can also play as a forward and he played PDL with West Michigan Edge, Kalamazoo Outrage and Indiana Invaders. During his 2011 season with Indiana, Mena scored 14 goals in 16 appearances, and also contributed four assists.

    That form put Mena on the radar of some MLS sides, but he decided to head back to Notre Dame for a 5th Senior year, only to suffer a season ending injury in preseason, followed by that second aforementioned injury after he was drafted by the Caps.

    Last season, the year after Mena left Notre Dame, the Fighting Irish won the NCAA College Cup. Did he have any idea of just what a good side he was a part of and the impact the team he left behind would soon have?

    "I knew. Honestly, my senior year I felt we had what it took as well, but we definitely had a few season ending injuries in the preseason. We had another one of our guys tear his ACL the first week of preseason, I ended up tearing my ACL a week after him and we had a couple of other injuries that season.

    "But just the way that the guys battled through that season, even though we didn't get what we wanted, you kinda knew they were going to be special the next few years and what do you know, they win it the next year."

    After missing such a stretch of time in such a key period for a young North American player, Mena was a little apprehensive coming into the ‘Caps camp in January, but they soon made him feel right at home.

    "From my point of view, I was a little nervous about that, just coming back. I was out for a good 18 months I would say, almost two years, so just jumping straight back into the game, especially now out of college and you're just going straight back into a pro environment.

    "I had never been in a professional environment and just coming off that injury, I was a little nervous but I knew if I just kinda stuck with what I learned in college and just remembered how I knew how to play, that I could just ease my way back into it. I thought I did a pretty good job of that. It was a little difficult, but I had to stay determined, motivated.

    "The guys here, honestly, were welcoming and they made that a lot easier as well. I never felt really like the new guy, I guess. They just welcomed me with open arms and it was awesome. It just took off from there."

    The ‘Caps coaches like what they saw but obviously needed a gauge of what he could do against pros and in competitive matches, so Mena was sent down to Charleston, where he signed a pro contract with the Battery, as opposed to officially being one of the Whitecaps loanees.

    Mena headed down to South Carolina along with Aminu Abdallah, Mamadou Diouf, Jackson Farmer, Michael Kafari, Andre Lewis and later Omar Salgado. Being there alongside players he had got to know in training camp was also a big help for him in settling in to a new side and the pro ranks.

    "I would say that for sure. I was with these guys for the first two months of preseason, so going down there with guys that I knew made the transition easier, cos you are going to a new team, guys you've never met before. Just knowing people down there was a good feeling."

    That might have been a good feeling, the heat not so much, and Mena had to have his long locks shaved off due to the humidity!

    So how much contact did the Whitecaps have with him whilst he was down in Charleston?

    "They were definitely very good about keeping contact. We had a coach down there as well that kept in contact with the coaches here, weekly reports. We would give feedback to the coaches back here about how we think we did and how things went. They were very good at keeping contact throughout the whole season."

    After making 27 appearances and grabbing two goals for Charleston, the midfielder is back training with the Caps now that the USL PRO season is finished. That was enough to be joint leader in appearances on the team and he clocked up 1178 minutes.

    As to what the future holds in store for Mena, that’s all still up on the air. One of the things that went against draft pick Michael Calderon this year was his similar age. When you have a good crop of Residency talent coming up at a much younger age and with more years of development ahead of them, it’s harder for guys like Mena. They have to impress.

    Has he done enough to merit a MLS deal? Will the ‘Caps want to take a closer look at him in their own USL PRO team next year? Or will he move on to pastures new?

    "That's just something that we'll have to talk about in the future. Right now, I just know I'm back for the rest of the season and just looking to kind of make a run and earn a spot."

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