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Posts Tagged ‘Danny Mwanga’

Soccer is a business.  And like most businesses, it’s about results.  More wins lead to more points lead to more fans lead to more revenue.  I can understand this.  Romanticism makes way to pragmatism.  I can understand that.  Last year’s side didn’t always get the results.  However, the 2010 Philadelphia Union were very much an un-MLS side.  They created little triangles all over the field.  They kept the ball on the deck.  They passed their way out of danger.  In short, they played attractive soccer.  They created chances and with the help of Sebastien Le Toux and Danny Mwanga, even finished some.  Sure, at times they looked completely inept in the back and Seitzy made more than his fair share of howlers, but they were mostly entertaining.  Doop 2.0 on the other hand, so far, not so much.

I know, I know…they were away and three points on the road surely can’t be cause for complaint.  But am I the only one thoroughly underwhelmed and left wanting more?  I was greatly encouraged in the offseason by the signing of Columbus Crew midfielder, Brian Carroll, a player with a big engine and a wealth of MLS experience.  However, after week one I can’t help but wonder if this is just another player in the Miglioranzi mold- a guy who looks great passing the ball backwards and sideways but never really scares anyone going forward.  If Barcelona v. Inter last year in the Champions League taught us anything it’s that possession without penetration is just masturbation.  Setting up with two holding midfielders seems to be the modus operandi of Piotr Nowak.  Against the Houston Dynamo, the Union effectively employed three with the aforementioned Carroll and Migs joining Kyle Nakazawa in the center of the park.  With Mapp failing to get any chalk on his boots and tucking inside, the center of midfield was hopelessly clogged.  El Pescadito, admittedly much fitter than the last time he appeared on these shores, didn’t have the dynamism required to sufficiently trouble Houston’s back line.  With the superb Brad Davis keeping Sheanon Williams in check all evening, the Union were nonexistent in the final third.

The introduction of Danny Mwanga on the hour mark and a tactical shift from the manager injected a bit more life into the game but failed to result in any meaningful chances.  It was a bit more adventurous from Nowak but what about all the preseason talk of allowing players to express themselves?  The quote about wanting his players to not be afraid to “dribble out of trouble”?  It was a cluserf*ck in midfield, an aging relic spearheading the attack and a fortuitous goal off a long throw.  Where is the fantasy?  The spectacle?  Yes, it’s a results business but it’s also an entertainment business.  The two players I will always pay to see play are Xavi Hernandez and Paul Scholes.  Sure, nothing gets the pulses racing like Lionel Messi carving up defenders on labyrinthine run or gets you out of your seat like that Wayne Rooney overhead kick against City; but for me it’s the the sheer class and elegance of a deep-lying playmaker, a maestro pulling the strings, picking out the pass that no one else sees that makes the beautiful game just that.  Where is he in the Union side?  Exiled to the bench.  His name is Roger Torres.

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Shea Salinas, on the move vs. UNC

What did we learn from Philadelphia Union’s match against the University of North Carolina? A few things. (Not nearly as much as if I was actually there, instead of dodging three feet of snow, but I digress.)

The Union are much better than a good college team.

Yay! No, really. That may not seem like a big deal, considering the massive wins other MLS teams got in friendlies against colleges. (FC Dallas 7-1 over University of Tulsa? Ouch.) But before Saturday’s 5-0 win, let’s be honest: We just couldn’t know. You could hope, you could say they looked good on paper, but the Union hadn’t played anyone out in the open. UNC is a national title contender. That counts for something. The Union did what they were supposed to do.

Sebastien Le Toux can score.

Well, we know he can do it in USL, and now we know he can do it against college players after Saturday’s hat trick. Will he do it in MLS? He netted just once last year for the Sounders in his first MLS season, when he spent a lot of time at midfield. Given more time up top, maybe he can pair with Moreno so that rookie Danny Mwanga only has to ease into action.

Temple University’s J.T. Noone could make the team.

Noone made the trip and got playing time Saturday. We wrote a few weeks ago about his joining the Union, and it looks like he has a legitimate shot to make the team. If so, he might be the only local guy who does. (Drexel’s Dan Zajac apparently made the trip too, though it’s not clear if he played.) The Union have 20 players listed on their roster, and they get another four developmental roster slots as part of their final 24-man roster, all of whom are eligible for league play.

Get used to seeing Alejandro Moreno hit the deck.

The Venezuelan forward is known as a diver, but sometimes, he really does earn those penalties, like the one he drew Saturday that led to the first goal. That’s important to have on a team.

Videos and more after the jump.

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Clint Dempsey has certainly made great strides to raise the status of American forwards abroad to the heights of their goaltender counterparts (i.e. Friedel, Keller, Howard) during a solid three full seasons with Fulham. He’s been a mainstay of their attack since a supporting cast role in ’06-’07 that saw him come on late in the season to drop Liverpool 1-0 to keep the Cottagers in the Premiership and was on pace to add several notches to last season’s goal tally of 7 (he led the team with 6 in ’07-’08) before suffering a knee injury in mid-January. But, it’s the inspired play of Landon Donovan that speaks the most of MLS.

Though Dempsey makes a strong case as the best U.S. player – his goal tally in World Cup qualifying matches Donovan and he notched huge goals against Egypt, Spain, and Brazil in the Confederations Cup to shine alongside his teammate – Donovan is as inextricably linked with the U.S. national team as he is with the MLS both in terms of  performance and general perception. The failures of the ’06 U.S. team in Germany were seen largely as a reflection of his own, while his masterful showing at the Confederations Cup has many hoping that he’ll now lead the team much deeper than the round of 8 reached in the ’02 World Cup. His near perennial designation as the top US player since ’02 is equaled by the many regular season and playoff accolades heaped upon him at the MLS level, which speaks to how he represents what the MSL – and the U.S. – can produce. This status was reaffirmed when his misgivings with Beckham over his fickle role with the Galaxy came to light ahead of the release of a book about the English footballer and his role with American soccer. (more…)

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Kyle Nakazawa heads to Philly

Philadelphia Union’s expectations just got a whole lot higher.

The Union stole the show at Thursday’s Major League Soccer amateur draft in Philadelphia, wheeling and dealing to acquire two extra first round picks to load up on youth before grabbing a couple of potential later round steals.

That wide haul of players prompted Goal.com’s Kyle McCarthy to call it “one of the most comprehensive draft classes in recent memory”, and ESPN’s Ives Galarcep wrote that “this year’s Union draft could wind up being the best in league history.”

Let’s not go overboard though. (This is Philly, where we do that every year, only to get punched in the gut.) Major League Soccer’s college draft is often notoriously thin, and many MLS draft picks never see the field for their teams. This draft could end up being no different.

What stands out is how the Union used the draft, parlaying an expansion team’s advantage in allocation position into high draft picks. Even if you’ve never seen any of these guys play, you at least have to like the deftness with which the Union played the draft game.

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All draft, all the time, as Philadelphia spent Thursday as the center of the American soccer world:

Soccer America wraps up yesterday’s MLS amateur draft. For a full list of those drafted, click here. ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle breaks down each first round pick.

For the local wraps, check out the Philadelphia InquirerDaily News and Delaware County Times for a more thorough look at the draft. ESPN’s Leander Schaerlaeckens drops the hypercritical routine for once in a nice story about top pick Danny Mwanga of Philadelphia Union.

Soccer America’s Paul Gardner offers a critical look at the unique role and state of the MLS SuperDraft, a uniquely North American concept, and why it’s not even close to what it could be.

Philadelphia-area product Chris Albright went to the Red Bulls in a trade, perhaps ending rumors he’d join the Union.

In non-MLS news, the U.S.-El Salvador friendly is set for Feb. 24 in Tampa, and it will be on TV.

Former MLS stars Preki and Thomas Dooley are voted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame. (International soccer news after the jump.)

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Oregon State has a pretty good State of the Program video… because Danny Mwanga is a pretty good player. The first minute features two Mwanga highlights; check out his speed in the first one and the technique on display in the second.

So the Philadelphia Union will build their attack around an 18 year old from Oregon State named Danny. I wonder what he did last year?

A 2009 M.A.C. Hermann Trophy semifinalist, Mwanga led the Pac-10 in multiple offensive categories including: goals scored (14), points per game (1.67), goals per game (0.78) and game-winning goals (5). He finished second in points (30). His mark in goals per game ranked him third in the NCAA.

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Philadelphia Union selected Oregon State forward Danny Mwanga today with the first pick in the MLS Superdraft in Philadelphia.

The Union followed that by taking UCLA midfielder Amobi Okugo and U-17 international Jack McInerney with the sixth and seventh picks, acquired via trades in the last day.

Then Philadelphia used their second round pick on Connecticut defensive midfielder Toni Stahl, rated as a top six pick by some, in what might be the steal of the draft. The Union continued the run on Bruins by selecting UCLA midfielder Kyle Nakazawa and UCLA goalkeeper Brian Perk with their third and fourth round picks.

Danny Mwanga

Union fans at the draft at the Philadelphia Convention Center answered the Mwanga pick with a Danny Mwanga chant that sounded practiced and honed to perfection. Mwanga definitely appreciated it, calling today “the best day of my life.”

For more on Mwanga, who projects as a starter at forward, click here.

Okugo was Pac-10 freshman of the year in 2009 before leaving school after just one year at UCLA. He has played for the U.S. U-20 and U-18 international teams. He had two assists for UCLA this year.

Amobi Okugo

McInerney is a 17-year-old, 5-8 forward from Georgia, and of the Union’s first round picks, his is the biggest surprise. Some had thought his stock had slipped and projected him as a late first round or early second round pick. The Union passed on New Jersey native and Rutgers product Dilly Duka (who went 8th to Columbus) and Wake Forest midfielder Corben Bone, who at one time was projected as a top-five pick.

As for Stahl, he was one of the oldest players available in the draft, at age 24. The Finland native spent four years at Connecticut and is viewed as a player who may be able to contribute immediately.

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