If Danny Mwanga had his choice Saturday night between glad-handing suite patrons at PPL Park or helping the Union earn a much needed win, without question, it would have been the latter.
Nothing against the fans, but dressing in a suit and posing for pictures just isn't his thing.
Luckily, the Union (5-3-2, 17 points) didn't require his assistance (on this night anyway) to dispatch the Chicago Fire, 2-1, in front of 18,372 and regain sole possession of first place in the Eastern Conference. Red Bull New York (4-2-4, 16 points) played to a 2-2 tie with Houston on Saturday. The win also marked the first time this season the Union has tallied more than one goal.
"Yeah, it's not the ideal situation, but it's the other side of the business, the non-soccer side," joked Mwanga. "Sitting there and watching the game from a monitor is not where you want to be in the first place, but then you have people who want to talk to you the whole game. I love the fans, but I'd definitely rather be on the field."
Mwanga was kept out of the lineup with nagging injuries to his left hamstring and right shoulder, which he reinjured in the 2-0 loss to FC Dallas in Week 9.
"It's still a little sore, but the season is still young; it doesn't make any sense to rush it," Mwanga said of his shoulder. "I don't want to injure myself further and hurt any chance of getting back on the field. But being up in the suites is motivating."
To get better as quickly as possible.
Carlos Ruiz' 40-yard rocket of a game-winner that dipped and swerved and found the back of Fire goalkeeper Jon Conway's net was one Conway would like to forget. Conway, a Delaware County native and Sun Valley High School soccer legend, was left frozen on both goals, but he had a humbling response for Ruiz' tally.
"Yeah, it left me frozen, man," Conway said. "There were some bodies in front [of the shot] and it was hard to see, but credit to him, it was one hell of a shot. It just dropped down right underneath the bar."
As an interesting tidbit, the blast was with Ruiz' left foot. He's a natural rightie.
"I have over 100 goals in my career [164 in his professional career to be exact] and I don't know how many I've scored with my left foot, but it hasn't been that many," Ruiz said. "To be honest, I never know when I shoot with my left what's going to happen and where the ball is going. But that was the only option I had to shoot on goal from that distance. It was a goal, I needed it, the team needed it so I am just thankful it found the net."
Odds and endlines
The Daily News caught up with Union goalkeeper Thorne Holder, who revealed that his concussion symptoms are getting better, but he's still about a week removed from returning to training. Holder sustained the injury during practice . . . There was no rest for the weary as the Union practiced yesterday and will resume normal training this week. "When you have success, you want to keep your foot on the pedal," said manager Peter Nowak . . . You would have thought PPL Park was hosting a Justin Bieber concert with all the teenage girls screaming every time a Union player emerged from the locker room. The loudest heard was for 16-year-old homegrown player Zach Pfeffer, in the house but in a suit during Saturday's win. Pfeffer, the Union's youngest-ever signing and the fourth youngest in MLS history, is still recovering from last week's appendectomy surgery . . . Faryd Mondragon's 0.70 goals-against average ranked third best in the league behind Los Angeles' Donovan Ricketts (0.67) and Real Salt Lake's Nick Rimando (0.33).