Featured / Union

We need you, Danny, oh yes we do

Photos: Paul Rudderow

Bear with me on this.

If you think of soccer as music, teams are the band that plays the song. Maybe the defense is the drummer, keeping things down in the back, while the midfield is the bass player and rhythm guitarist, locking the groove down with the defense while also supporting the melody played by the offense. In that sense, the forwards are the singer and lead guitarist—they are the focus of everyone’s attention, they are the face of the band. When all of them are clicking, they are incredible. They intuitively know where the others are going, no cues are needed, and some beautiful music is played.

If strike partnerships are the front men of the band, then goals are their hit songs. Most albums may have only a couple of really great songs and, likewise, most games only have only a couple of goals.

During the recent winless streak, the Union were a lot like a band that had lost its way. The pieces were there—you could point to any number of people and say, “That’s a really good player”–but they weren’t clicking, they had lost the beat. Lately, the defense seems to have locked down the back beat again with the midfield, who in turn have been supporting a front person who had lost his voice for far too long.

Well, Sebastien Le Toux has refound his voice and the Union are starting to play some very beautiful music, once again.

But something feels like it is missing from the band. After all, the Philadelphia Union we all love the most featured two lead singers.

What’s missing is Danny Mwanga.

Slumping

If you ask fans what their favorite Philadelphia Union songs from 2010 were, they’d probably answer the ones that had Le Toux and Mwanga singing harmonies together while they traded off lead vocals. Hell, the duo even had their own dance.

Come on let's twist again, like we did last summer. Yeah, let's twist again, like we did last year.

But that harmony was busted with the addition of Carlos Ruiz. While Ruiz tried to introduce some new rhythms to the Union’s repertoire, Le Toux lost his voice for what felt like an eternity and Mwanga was left to carry on the song alone. Now, with Le Toux back in voice, Mwanga is the silent one and he hasn’t scored since his dramatic 82nd minute game-winner against Chivas USA on June 25.

That was three months ago.

After the Chivas game, Mwanga had five goals from 13 appearances and seven starts, with ten shots on goal from 16 shots. That gave him a goals/shots on goal conversion rate of 50 percent. He also had two assists. All of those goals were scored in the second half and three of the goals were either game-tying or game-winning goals that came after he entered as a second-half substitute and led to points for the Union. All of which was pretty damn rocking.

A piece here at the PSP at the time said, “Mwanga continues to get more out of less time than anyone on the Union, with five goals in 791 minutes played, which works out to a goal every 158 minutes. In comparison, Ruiz’ four goals in 981 minutes works out to a goal every 245 minutes.”

And then there was silence.

While the Everton and Real Madrid friendlies may have distracted many of us from noticing, a piece in the PSP as early as August 5 asked, “What has happened to Danny?”. Mwanga was then on a three-game streak (at New England, Colorado, at Chicago) in which he recorded exactly one shot and zero shots on goal in 146 minutes of play. Since then, Mwanga has had two games in which he recorded no shots (at Real Salt Lake, Columbus) and two games in which he recorded only one shot (Houston, Dallas). Mwanga now has 36 shots with 20 shots on goal from 26 appearances and 13 starts with a total of 1472 minutes played. That means his scoring rate presently stands at one goal every 294 minutes, or one goal every 5.2 appearances, and his goals/shots on goals conversion rate has dropped to 25 percent. A piece in the PSP noted last week, by the start of the Union’s winless streak, Mwanga’s conversion rate had already dropped to 38 percent.

It’s time to get the old band back together

After his goal against Chivas, Mwanga said, “I’m trying to look at things on the bright side right now. If I’m coming off the bench, I’m put in a position where the team is relying on me to do good things. Right now, it’s really good for my confidence knowing I’m not playing as much but I’m still scoring goals.”

There have been glimpses of the confident Mwanga we all love in the three months since he last scored, but they have been few and far in between and the bright side has been increasingly difficult to see. The cause of the slump can be anybody’s guess—the constantly shuffling lineups can’t help, nor can the fact that four of his six starts since his last goal have happened on the road. Maybe it’s just the classic sophomore curse. Whatever the cause, the confidence has been replaced by hesitancy. The song is gone.

But Le Toux’s recent performances are proof positive that a player can fight through a slump to return decisively to form. With the Union fighting for a playoff spot, they need the confident Danny Mwanga back like never before.

Sing for us, Danny. It’s time to get the old band back together, to play some of those old favorites. To paraphrase the words of Philadelphia’s very own Chubby Checker, let’s twist again, like we did when things were really humming. You’ll have the fans singing–and dancing—along with you in the stands.

One Comment

  1. Well, almost all the people (me, you, others) who said over and over that Le Toux would return to form when returned to forward have also said this partnership needed to be put back together.

    This is rocket science at work, folks. Really, I swear. Le Toux + Mwanga = goals + fun.

    And let’s get Billy Corgan and James Iha together in a room while we’re at it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

*

%d bloggers like this: