Top 10 in 2010: A Star is Born at Home

Top 10 in 2010 approaches the top 3 with #4, Mwanga's first career goal

philadelphiaunion.com is counting down the top 10 moments of the Union’s inaugural season as part of our Top 10 in 2010 series. It wasn’t easy narrowing down a historic season filled with countless memories, but here’s our best attempt. Feel free to leave your reactions or personal memories in the comments section below.

As we approach the top three in our Top 10 in 2010 countdown, there’s one more moment that didn’t involve a
full three points for the Union. It might as well have, though.

Three elements in particular
made Philadelphia’s 1-1 draw vs. FC Dallas at Lincoln Financial
Field so memorable: A thrilling ending, the emergence of a young star, and the apparent
refusal to lose at home, at least for the time being.

The Union were only 1-5-0
overall, but they were still undefeated at home following a 3-2 victory against
D.C. United in the club’s Home Opener more than a month prior. Peter Nowak’s side thoroughly
outplayed FC Dallas -- a team that only lost four regular season matches all
season -- registering a whopping 16 shots on goal compared to only six for FCD. But
Goalkeeper of the Year finalist Kevin Hartman was in stellar form, making save
after save, many acrobatic and improbable. The Union just couldn’t break
through, yet they needed to after Brek Shea netted a stunning goal from
distance in the 13
th minute.

There’s a certain amount of
pride associated with avoiding defeat at home. Real Salt Lake are the gold
standard, shattering the MLS home unbeaten record this season and ending the
season with a streak of 25 matches still in tact. Life was obviously tougher
for a young franchise like the Union, but in a way that made it even more
important to establish the distinct advantage of playing on home soil. The
Union didn’t yet have the luxury of playing in their permanent home, PPL Park,
but fans are what really define “home.” 

Philadelphia were on the verge
of dropping their home invincibility on May 15 when an 18-year-old striker from Oregon
State University entered the match in the 81
st minute. Danny Mwanga,
the number one overall pick in the 2010 SuperDraft, was no ordinary rookie, but
he had been playing like one to start the season. That all changed with
alacrity.

WATCH: Danny Mwanga's season to remember

With the final seconds of
stoppage time ticking away, Shea Salinas lofted a desperation ball with all but
several players from each side converging in the area. Deflecting away
from the cluster, there was Mwanga, and he didn’t hesitate. Taking one step forward,
the Congolese striker one-timed a rocket past Hartman, sending over 25,000 fans
into a frenzy.

Mwanga ran to the sideline and
embraced Nowak, the man who had identified him and put his faith in the
sophomore sensation. It was a touching gesture - the moment that launched
Mwanga’s career intersecting with the man who afforded him the opportunity. The Rookie
of the Year finalist would go on to tally in stoppage time in the next two
matches, finishing with seven goals and four assists on the season.

One well struck equalizer had a
profound impact, boosting the confidence of an emerging superstar, handing the
Union a point against top competition with a long season ahead, and extending the
magic that had pervaded Lincoln Financial Field in the club’s first home game.
This wasn’t a lucky goal against the run of play, either. Philadelphia had
earned a result, with tension mounting after each Hartman denial.

Then, of course, there was the
home factor. The Union faithful would have to wait a seemingly endless month
and a half before the next home match, which would mark the historic
opening of PPL Park. Now, thanks to the golden right foot of Mwanga, MLS’
newest franchise would christen their new soccer palace still undefeated at
home.

WATCH: FULL MATCH HIGHLIGHTS

Top 10 in 2010:

#10: The 95th Minute PK

#9: Two to Win It

#8: An International Statement

#7: A Clean Sheet At Last

#6: The Wait is Over

#5: Road to Victory