Mwanga Shrugs Off Top Rookie Talk

Number one pick prefers to focus on team's improvement, postseason

Being drafted No. 1 overall in any
sport always brings lots of pressure to perform.

Any team would love to sign the top
pick because it knows the potential of the top player in the college pool and
what he can bring to a team.

For the No. 1 overall pick in the MLS
SuperDraft this year, Philadelphia
Union forward Danny Mwanga, things moved a bit more
slowly than he would have hoped. That didn’t last long, though, as after
scoring his first professional goal against FC Dallas in May, the 18-year-old has been
on a tear, netting another four.

He’s now being considered a
frontrunner for this year’s Rookie of the Year Award, something he’d prefer
waited a bit longer.

“The season isn’t over yet,” said
Mwanga on Wednesday. “Right now, it’s a motivation that shows you’re going in
the right direction, but at the same time, there are other rookies that are
doing well. That kind of pushes you to keep working harder and harder, too, and
to do better than I have been doing the last five or six games.

"At the end, whatever happens,
happens—but I’m just excited to be here, and I want to help my team and
hopefully achieve big goals as a team, which I think is the most important
thing right now.”

Mwanga has done plenty to help his
team in recent games. Late goals against FCD, Houston Dynamo
and the Seattle Sounders secured
results for Philadelphia, something that Mwanga sees as the most important
benefit from his scoring.

Though he's aware of his improvement
on the field, he also pointed out that the entire team has gotten better as the
campaign progressed.

“It isn’t just me,” Mwanga said. “As
a team, in the beginning, we had a couple things we needed to correct. So now
we are playing very well as a team, better than at the beginning of the season.

"That has helped me personally.
After I got my first goal, it kind of gave me extra motivation to work harder
and play even harder in the games to try and get more goals to help my team.”

Union coach John Hackworth
realized the change in Mwanga after his first goal and noticed an improvement
in the rookie's game.

“Any time you have young players,
things are very different," Hackworth said. "He realized [after the
goal against FC Dallas], that 'These guys believe in me, have faith in me and
that I’m actually pretty good.' All of a sudden, that next week, the way he trained,
you could really see the confidence coming out. That’s part of the formula or
recipe about how an individual grows and really starts to learn and ply their
trade at a very high level. We’re seeing that now with Danny.”

For Mwanga though, he isn’t concerned
with the individual praise or accolades, as he wants to ensure he does
everything he can do to get his team in a good position to make the postseason
this year.

“We’re not done yet,” Mwanga said. “We have a very good chance to do
very well and to be one of the top teams in the East and hopefully make it to
the playoffs. Right now, we’ve kind of forgotten about the beginning of the
season and we’re focusing on the rest of the games and we’re trying to take
them one at a time.”