At the start of the season, Danny Mwanga looked like anything but a Rookie of the Year candidate in MLS. Now, beyond the halfway point of the season, the 19-year-old looks like the clear favorite to claim this trophy.
His numbers, seven goals and three assists, are more impressive when you realize that he’s played in just 14 total games, and started just nine. How about his goals in stoppage time in three consecutive games?
If you look at his goal last weekend against Colorado, it was a thing of beauty. Breaking it down in slow motion, it was a great example of his skill, poise, and coordination. At real speed, it was more stunning. After missing two games with a groin injury, Danny now has scored goals in back-to-back games.
Mwanga seems to have it all - some size, speed, skill, and confidence. He also has a great teacher in Peter Nowak who has brought him along at the right pace. These days you can see a big difference in Danny from game one in Seattle to game 19 vs the Rapids.
Today, Mwanga is making better runs, at the correct time. He is reading the game quicker than he was at the start of the year. The teenager is also adjusting more to the physical play of MLS.
While there is plenty of room for improvement, he’s on the right track, or maybe the fast track to break the MLS rookie goal scoring record. That record, 11 goals, belongs to Damani Ralph who established the mark in 2003.
He has given a lot of credit to his teammates for his progress, citing Sebastien Le Toux, Alejandro Moreno, and Danny Califf.
If you’re wondering about Califf, the Union captain told the rookie he would go hard against him in training every day, saying that’s the only way the he would get better. It seems like Califf is a pretty good teacher, and Mwanga, a good student.
After playing four games in 10 days, the Union have just the one game this week at DC United. I’ll preview that match later this week.
In the meantime, here are some talking points this week in MLS:
- Real Salt Lake are now unbeaten at home in 21 consecutive games.
- Despite all of their talent, the New York Red Bulls have been shutout in two of their last three games, scoring just one goal.
- FC Dallas are now unbeaten in 10 games. Did anyone see that coming?
- And San Jose has signed their first Designated Player, Geovanni. The 30-year-old midfielder brings skill and experience to the Quakes, who hope he can be the missing piece to their playoff hopes.