Danny Mwanga was an ocean away when he heard Sébastien Le Toux, his partner in crime on the Philadelphia Union front line over the past two seasons, had been traded to Vancouver.
Surprised by the news, Mwanga placed a call to Le Toux during a break from his training stint with Aston Villa of the English Premier League. After getting some encouraging words from his friend and ex-teammate, Mwanga’s attention shifted to what the trade will mean for him personally.
Namely, can Mwanga fill the shoes of Le Toux and become the Union’s top goal scorer in 2012?
“That’s a good question,” Mwanga said by phone on Thursday from the Union’s preseason camp in Orlando. “I’m not going to speak ahead and tell people I want to be that guy, but I know for sure the way the team is looking right now, with the forwards we have, it’s going to be more of a team effort.
"It’s always nice when you have a lot of guys scoring. I think we’re going to share responsibility. I’m pretty confident I’m going to be one of the guys out there that will bring danger to the opposing team, but I know for sure it’s not going to be a one-man show. We’re all going to share [the scoring load].”
The Union certainly do possess a healthy balance in their striking corps, with Mwanga and fellow youngsters Jack McInerney, Josué Martínez and rookie Chandler Hoffman joining Colombian veteran Lionard Pajoy up top.
But if anyone will emerge from the group as the team’s primary weapon, Mwanga is as good of a bet as any, considering he’s scored 12 goals over the past two seasons, the second-highest total on the club behind only Le Toux.
And now, after a strong training stint at Aston Villa, he hopes he’s poised for even bigger things in his third MLS season. Mwanga joined the Union in Florida last week after spending 10 days with the EPL club.
“My time there was great,” Mwanga said. “I’ll be honest, it was a bit cold for me. But after a few days, I was able to adjust. … It gave me a really good idea how to go about training, how they come in day in and day out and the stuff they do off the field.
"At the end of the day, it’s really important for a professional footballer – not just being able to watch on TV but being able to train with them, to see what they do. I have a pretty good idea what I need to work on to get to the level they’re at.”
While some people may have been perplexed that Mwanga missed the first week of the Union preseason, the third-year striker said he thought the timing of the training stint worked out well and helped get him adjusted to the speed of play when he arrived for the Union’s second leg of training camp. He also admitted he paid little attention to the trade rumors that swirled around him last month.
“At the time, I was just trying to focus on getting ready to come back to the Union, since I didn’t hear anything from the front office or coaching staff,” Mwanga said. “They were just rumors, which were not true, so I didn’t have to worry about it.”
The only thing he has to worry about now is scoring goals and meshing well with his teammates in the attacking third, both of which he seemed to do well in the Union’s last preseason game. In that match, a 5-0 win over the University of Central Florida on Wednesday, Mwanga, McInerney and Martínez all found the back of the net.
“This last game showed we are all capable of making good things happen,” Mwanga said.
Dave Zeitlin covers the Philadelphia Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.