Union's Mwanga earning big-goal reputation
So far in his brief professional career, second-year Union forward Danny Mwanga has tended to score goals in bursts. There is always the temptation to say the No. 1 overall selection in the 2010 Major League Soccer SuperDraft has arrived when he goes on one of those explosions. But the truth is there is a long way to go before Mwanga is a finished product.
So far in his brief professional career, second-year Union forward Danny Mwanga has tended to score goals in bursts.
There is always the temptation to say the No. 1 overall selection in the 2010 Major League Soccer SuperDraft has arrived when he goes on one of those explosions. But the truth is there is a long way to go before Mwanga is a finished product.
He has three goals in his last two games, including the equalizer in Saturday's 1-1 draw at Colorado against the defending MLS champion Rapids. The previous week, he scored twice in a 6-2 rout at Toronto.
Saturday's goal may have been one of his most spectacular. Mwanga took a pass from Sebastien Le Toux, took one touch, and then sent a shot inside the near post from about 25 yards out.
"We were down, 1-0. I didn't have much space in front of me, and the goalie was well placed in the middle," Mwanga said earlier this week after practice. "I had to put a lot of power on it, and that goal rates high on my list."
That goal continued his penchant for scoring big goals and finding his groove after a slow start. Last year, his first goal came in stoppage time of a 1-1 draw with Dallas in the Union's seventh game of the season. This year, he scored his first goal in a 1-1 draw against the visiting Los Angeles Galaxy on May 11, the Union's eighth game of the season.
Despite his explosive ability, Mwanga hasn't earned the right to play the full 90 minutes of each game. Against Colorado, he entered the game in the 58th minute and scored in the 66th.
In the game against the Galaxy, Mwanga scored in the 84th minute after entering the game to begin the second half.
And in a 1-0 win over the New York Red Bulls, he entered the game in the 59th minute and assisted on a Roger Torres goal in the 68th minute.
Yet the team isn't going to hand him anything. He turns 20 in July and is being taught that everything, including playing time, must be earned.
"What you see with Danny is the evolution of a young player who continues to develop and is getting better and better," Union assistant coach John Hackworth said.
The next step is for Mwanga to be a full-time player on the field. To his credit, he has never complained about his minutes.
In fact, less than 12 hours after that Red Bulls game, he was playing for the Union's reserve team in a Sunday morning contest against the same Red Bulls. That is the equivalent of playing for the varsity high school team and then later for the junior varsity team.
"I have wanted to be a professional soccer player since I was a little kid, and being able to play at this level is the best thing in my life," Mwanga said. "When there is the opportunity to play, I will always be there."
Hackworth dismissed the notion that Mwanga has had two big games without Carlos Ruiz, who is playing in the Gold Cup with the national team of Guatemala, in the lineup. The two get along fine but have yet to mesh consistently on the field.
"We said all along the goals were there and were going to come, and that is what you are seeing, and it is not a matter of Carlos not being there," Hackworth said.
Mwanga said he understands that a goal-scorer goes through ups and downs. He never changes his demeanor, works hard, and waits for his chance. The coaching staff raves about the strides he has made. The next indication of his growth is when he is able to start and finish a game on a consistent basis.