Being a rookie in Major League Soccer is no easy task.
Having to make the quick transition from college to the professional level can be quite daunting.
Danny Mwanga knew it would be tough. Yet having to go through the process was harder than he thought.
“You know, it was tough because the MLS season is so much longer,” said Mwanga, the Union’s dynamic forward who just completed a successful rookie season. “The training was harder, the games were more physical and it took a toll at times. The staff here did a great job preparing us for the long season. I feel like I’m going to be a better player next season because I’ll be that much more prepared.”
Mwanga was selected as a Generation adidas signee with the first overall pick in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft. The Oregon State product scored three straight goals in stoppage time and wound up with seven goals and four assists, making him a finalist for Rookie of the Year.
MLS Commissioner Don Garber announced Mwanga’s name almost immediately after the SuperDraft began last January at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.
“I was so happy to hear my name from the commissioner, especially with going to Philadelphia,” Mwanga said. “I was happy because of the staff they had put together. The organization was strong, and I was so happy to be the first pick. I took a lot of pride in that, and it made me feel good to contribute like I did to the club. I just tried to get better every day to do what I could do to improve the club.”
Seeing that improvement, especially at home, was a special experience.
“When they opened PPL Park, I was like, ‘Wow, this is an amazing place,’” Mwanga said. “To play in front of these fans was unbelievable. They pushed us all the time and they were behind us all the way. After games, they stayed around and it was so cool to talk to them and sign autographs. They knew so much about the sport. Knowing that we got better all season, and seeing their support, well, it made it even more exciting for us as players.”
MLS is a league on the upswing, with more talent entering every year. Mwanga believes the high level of competition benefits his own development and that of a young Union side.
“This league (MLS) is very strong,” Mwanga said. “There are so many good players spread throughout the entire league. Every night, you’re competing against incredible talent and you have to be prepared. For young players like myself, it was good to go through the league already to see how the talent is spread out. I really think that MLS is underrated in terms of its overall strength. I thought it was so tough all the way through and it made us all better because of the competition we faced every game.”
Since the 2011 season is inching closer by the day, Mwanga plans on taking it easy before amping up his training regimen.
“I will spend some quiet time with family and friends and then get right back to work,” Mwanga said. “Soccer is a year-round sport now, and I can see that. You have to stay fit and be ready to play. I will take some down time to get ready mentally. I’m very much looking forward to my second MLS season. I expect the club to have some new faces. I think the organization is so focused on winning and doing it the right way. I could see that from the beginning.
“I’m very excited for next season. We want to show even more improvement for ourselves and for our great fans. I think the playoffs are a good goal to have. I think we should focus on that while improving every day.”
Full season ticket plans are on sale now for the 2011 season! CLICK HERE for more information on becoming a Union season ticket holder.