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Mwanga coming of age with Union

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Photo by Patricia Globetti/


PHILADELPHIA — Danny Mwanga, for once, looked around and saw that he was the grizzled vet on the field at one point in the second half of his Philadelphia Union's friendly against Everton of England last Wednesday night.

The Union had brought in subs — academy players and young senior roster guys — and Mwanga, at the tender age of 20, was older than half of his teammates on the field. 

"I was able to stay up top and try to be strong, and try to direct the young guys what to do and where to be on the ball," Mwanga said. 

Mwanga has some leadership credibility. He's been a part of the Union as long as any original member of the club — a total of one full season and a half. The former first overall pick in the 2010 MLS Superdraft — to the expansion Union that January — is starting to put it all together in his second season.

Not that his rookie season was a bad one. Mwanga, the native of Congo by way of Portland, Ore., scored seven goals in 24 games in 2010, starting 17 matches. This season, Mwanga is a part-time starter with five goals and three assists in a total of 17 MLS matches. 

He's one reason for the Union's success this season, some pressure taken off of him to produce with Carlos Ruiz and Sebastien LeToux taking most of the shots on offense. 

At 6-foot-2 and 175 pounds, Mwanga is wiry but not widely viewed as imposing. Still, Union fans saw something from the striker they probably liked against Everton — Mwanga exchanging some contact and not backing down from Dutch national team and Everton defender John Heitinga during a scuffle in the box.

"It was our home field," Mwanga said. "I don't think playing at PPL Park that we're going to back down from anyone. Just coming in here and playing against them I think was really good confidence for us… we really showed that we were capable of playing against them."

Mwanga, like his teammates, is quite pleased with the Union's performance this season. Philly is unbeaten at home this season, undefeated in its last five league matches and tied for first place in the Eastern Conference at 31 points with Columbus. That's the season point total for the club in 2010, and it has already attained that level. Plus the Union have two games in hand over the Crew and four over the second-place New York Red Bulls as the MLS All-Star Game approaches this week.

"It's something that we have had to work for, starting from the preseason to now," Mwanga said. "Everyone's done a really good job of working on some areas of our game. We're definitely moving in the right direction… we're capable of doing much better than we're doing right now."

The foundation for 2011 was put in place last season, when Mwanga felt the Union was a better team with little to show for it because of key mistakes that cost the team games. 

"My confidence level is really high," Mwanga said. "I'm telling myself that I'm capable of playing in this league. I'm capable of coming in and doing some damage."

Mwanga is motivated by being able to see the improvement in his game from one season to the next. He's headed back to Portland to spend some time with his family this week, and he gets another crack at his hometown team, the Timbers, at PPL Park on Sept. 10.


  1. If he doesn’t represent the American Dream Then I don’t know what does. Quit hating on the immigrants someone in your family was once one to even if they were native american.

  2. Ohhhhh Danny Mwanga! Ohhhh Danny Mwanga! He’s got great potential. Peter is bringing him on slowly and it is working well. He still has a lot to learn but he’s improving.

  3. Hey I’m wondering….. what is your name about?

    “thebumswillalwayslose” as in what bums? The Dodgers? Who are previously and notoriously known as “Them Bums” from Brooklyn?

    Just wondering, I’m a huge Dodger fan so I thought it might be a cool reference?

  4. Nowak is right about that.

    Hopefully he will develop that full 90 ability.
    Either way he could be useful to our national team (as a Gomez/Feilhaber later offensive substitute).

  5. “Well, he doesn’t have a green card yet.”

    Why bother to comment if you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about?

    1. He has had his green card for a few years.
    2. He is close to being eligible for US citizenship (one year shorter wait for refugees).
    3. He has said he wants to play for the US.

  6. He’s had a green card since 2007, he came here like 5 or 7 years ago. Refugees here on asylum qualify for Citizenship status after 4 years of holding a U.S. Permanent Resident card, usually it’s 5 when you can apply. He should be applying soon, I think he’ll be ready by next year in the run up to the 2012 London games, it would be great if he gets it by the January camp so he can join that and give Agudelo and Bunbury some competition. Then he could play in the March or April Concacaf U-23 Pre-olympic tournament

  7. Yes, I’m sure the French fans are still up in arms that over half their team from WC98 wasn’t actually from France.

  8. Nowak has said that Mwanga is not great at managing himself over a full 90 yet, meaning he gets gassed at the end. I believe 3 of his 5 goals cam off the bench (2 as a starter were against TFC). He is definately more effective off the bench right now. Hopefully that changes soon and he becomes a regular productive starter!

  9. He has a green card allready and is working towards citizenship as a political refugee, can’t play for the States until you are a citizen

  10. “since when did i say he should be forced to not play? ”


    Since when did I say that you said that he should be forced not to play?

  11. since when did i say he should be forced to not play? I said in my opinion i dont want him on our national team if hes only here because it will give him the best chance to win.

  12. I love how everyone gets so defensive when all im saying is i dont want players to play for our country because they arent good enough for another one or because the US is the better option. If he gets his citizenship and truly loves this country then im ok with it but i think its a bad reflection of US soccer if half the team wasnt born here or hasnt played here. I dont care Rossi left because if he didnt want to play for the US then i would rather him leave. Plus his father was killed by a dictorial regime during a civil war not by his country.

  13. yeah but he also stated if he doesnt get his citizenship then he would play for Congo. To me, that sounds like he just wants to play international soccer no matter what country.

  14. We get it every time any such player and his decision regarding international play is concerned. Heaven forbid some people not fall into completely obvious black-and-white categories for the sake of the rest of us, or that they make up their own minds for their own lives based on their situations and preferences and feelings what they think is best. I mean, how dare they?!?

  15. “Doesnt Mwanga have any respect for the country that developed his soccer skills?”

    You know, perspective is an amazing thing. The country that “developed his soccer skills” is also the country that killed his father in a civil war and the country that forced his mother to flee to the US and thus had Mwanga and his sisters spend an extended period of their childhood without either of their parents. If that were your situation, would you be in a hurry to represent that country? I wouldn’t.

    Once he gains citizenship, he’s just as American as we are and I for one would be happy to have him represent our country.

  16. Yea play for the country where you learned to play and overlook the fact that country killed your dad forcing you to flee

  17. That’s an awful argument. Does that mean you support Rossi’s decision to play for Italy? After all, that is where he developed his skills.

  18. I don’t know about you but knowing about his story and why he and his family are over here along with his stated desire to actually want to play for the US and it being an honor to him…I think I would gladly accept him as a US national team player. I don’t want to assume but it seems he is grateful for the opportunity living in the US has provided him and if he becomes a citizen he has every right to represent what would then be His country just as much as yours.

  19. I dont want him on our NT. I hate poaching players, would rather be mediocre then steal players from other nations. Doesnt Mwanga have any respect for the country that developed his soccer skills? Its sad players are allowed to switch allegiances so easily.

  20. Speculation was that he’d become eligible for us this year. His alternative is the Congo — which is like taking sloppy 102nds.

  21. Well, he doesn’t have a green card yet. I don’t think he’s eligible for the US until that. Otherwise, I don’t think he has declared any national status.

  22. Why isn’t he playing more minutes or starting more? Did you talk to Novak? More journalism, please.

  23. Does anyone have an update on his national team status? How many more years will it take to be eligible for the USMNT? What other nations are options for him? Any idea which nation he’s leaning towards? Thanks.


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