Philadelphia Union forward Danny Mwanga was high on many people’s list for this season’s MLS Rookie of the Year award.
Ultimately, though, that honor was given to D.C. United’s young phenom Andy Najar despite a strong season by Mwanga, the first overall selection in the 2010 SuperDraft.
Not winning the award after playing so well might weigh on some, but not Mwanga. He's using the snub as motivation to become a better player.
“Like I’ve always said, it would be a great honor to be Rookie of the Year,” Mwanga said. “At the same time, I think I had a pretty good season and I was one of the finalists, which was a great honor as well. It doesn’t really effect me as much. I’m still focusing on coming in next year and improving in areas that I didn’t do so well.”
Being the first pick in the draft comes with a certain amount of expectations. Following in the footsteps of players like Freddy Adu, Maurice Edu and most recently Steve Zakuani, Mwanga had quite a bit to live up to.
“A lot of people were expecting me to step in right away and help the team,” Mwanga said. “I was a little bit worried about that. As the season got going, I found confidence and motivation in myself that I was capable of playing in this league.
“Unfortunately I got hurt during the season and it took a while for me to find my form after I missed a couple of games. Other than that, I’m very excited about how I played and I’m getting excited about working even harder next year and trying to get better.”
The 19-year-old's main goal now is to be ready for his second year in the league and to show the country he was a worthy Rookie of the Year candidate. He hopes to grow his game into a more well-rounded and efficient product.
"I’m going to prove to people that maybe I should have been the Rookie of the Year," Mwanga said. "It’s all about doing better than this year and how much I can improve."
Shane Evans covers the Philadelphia Union for MLSsoccer.com. You can reach him for comments on Twitter @shanEvans.