Thursday, January 14, 2010

Danny Mwanga top overall pick

Three nights before the MLS SuperDraft, Philadelphia Union CEO and operating partner Nick Sakiewicz unveiled a surprising a revelation.

He knew who the club was selecting with the No. 1 pick.

He just didn’t say who it was.

Shortly after 2 p.m. ET Thursday at the Convention Center, Philadelphia announced it had taken Oregon State forward Danny Mwanga.

The skilled forward was the clear-cut No. 1 choice.

“We think Danny is a solid player,” said Union team manager Peter Nowak. “He’s going to contribute a lot to our club and we’re excited.”

Nowak called Mwanga over the weekend and had a rather lengthy discussion. When Mwanga hung up, he knew what was going to transpire at the draft. And he was thrilled.

“When Peter called me and told me I was the top pick, I was so happy,” Mwanga said. “I told him I’d do everything I could to help. It’s a great situation to be in. I really couldn’t be happier. Peter and I never met in person. I talked to him on the phone and we talked about a lot of things.

“He’s a great coach to play for. It’s a great opportunity and one that I’m very much looking forward to. I’m just so happy to be picked first. It doesn’t get much better. It’s just awesome.”

Mwanga began playing soccer at the age of 6, and he was soon competing against much older players.

When you’re that good at such a young age, things like that tend to happen.

“I remember an uncle and other relatives telling me to play hard, compete and never back down,” Mwanga said. “I never forgot that and I think it has helped me through the years and through college.”

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, every kid plays soccer. Obviously not every kid goes on to play professional soccer.

This is a dream for Mwanga in so many ways.

“To be here and hearing my name chanting by the Sons of Ben as the top pick, it’s kind of overwhelming,” Mwanga said. “I couldn’t be more pleased. It is a dream. As a kid, you dream of playing in the pros. Now to have it happen is just amazing.”

Mwanga has three sisters, Sylvie, Isabel and Marianne. His sisters and the rest of the family has been ultra-supportive.

To get to this level is nearly impossible without that family support.

“They’re my biggest fans,” Mwanga said. “I couldn’t have made it this far if not for my family.”

Mwanga had a stellar two-year career at Oregon State. As a sophomore this past season, he scored 14 goals and added two assists in 18 games en route to being named the Pac-10 Player of the Year.

As a freshman, Mwanga had four goals in 11 games. It was a freshman when he realized how much work was ahead of him.

“You think you’re ready, but you soon find out how much better you can be,” Mwanga said. “I think I really improved from my freshman to sophomore years. Because I put the work in and because of all the coaches who took the time to help me, I was able to stand on the podium and be announced as the No. 1 pick. I’m a very lucky man today.”

Andy Jasner is a contributor to

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