MLS / Union

Mwanga skips combine, Union deal next?

Oregon State forward Danny Mwanga skipped Major League Soccer’s scouting combine this weekend amid reports that Philadelphia Union would pick him first in Thursday’s draft.

Danny Mwanga

Mwanga, an 18-year-old sophomore originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, was set to head to play in France but apparently changed his mind after a visit from Union Manager Peter Novak. Novak flew to Oregon on Dec. 23 to sway Mwanga to join MLS, despite Mwanga’s concerns about the length of contracts for MLS Generation Adidas players, according to The Oregonian.

That seems to have made the difference, with Mwanga lined up to join the Union – if reports prove accurate. Many believe Nowak’s trip tips the hand on the Union’s preferences (and that a deal may already be agreed on), and, well, it does seem logical, doesn’t it?

Here’s the rundown on Mwanga.

He stands 6-2 and weighs 175 pounds and grew up largely in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo. Four years ago, his family sent him to Oregon at age 14 due to violence in his home country that split apart his family and left his father missing. He speaks French fluently – his given name is Jean-Marie Daniel  Mwanga – and learned English after arriving in the U.S.

Mwanga played only two years of soccer at Jefferson High School in Portland after immigrating to live with his sister and two more years varsity soccer at Oregon State, along with playing for youth club Westside Metros International. He nearly went pro with the United Soccer Leagues’ Portland Timbers after a tryout at age 15 but decided against it.

This year, Mwanga was a second team All-American for an Oregon State team that missed the NCAA tourney both his seasons. He scored 14 goals and had two assists in 18 games and was the Pac-10 Conference’s player of the year this season. In his freshman year, he scored four goals in 11 matches and was voted the conference’s top freshman.

Should he join the Union, he’ll be added to a roster that appears relatively thin on forwards, though that won’t really be clear until we see how Nowak uses his players. Former Columbus Crew striker Alejandro Moreno is one clear option at forward. The Union roster lists fellow expansion draft acquisitions Sebastien Le Toux and Nick Zimmerman as forwards, but each played mostly midfield last year. The team is stocked pretty well at defender, with Danny Califf, Shavar Thomas and Jordan Harvey all having starting experience in MLS, and that makes it appear increasingly unlikely the Union will take Wake Forest defender Ike Opara, who for a while had been the presumptive top draft pick.

There’s not much available in the video department, but this one shows Mwanga in action in its first minute.

What do you think of the prospective Mwanga pick? Would you rather see the Union go for Opara or someone else? Have you seen Mwanga play, and can you add anything about him? Weigh in below.

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