Mwanga Gets Top Billing at MLS SuperDraft

Phil AndrewsCorrespondent IJanuary 14, 2010

The fact that the MLS expansion Philadelphia Union selected Oregon State forward Danny Mwanga with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft, was perhaps one of the worst kept secrets in Major League Soccer.


As a matter of fact, Union head coach Peter Nowak did all he could to get the folks at Generation Adidas to sign the 18-year-old Congolese  forward, so that he would be available for the draft and not wander off to Europe to play.


So, if it was such a forgone conclusion that Mwanga was the man, why was Danny up so late the night before the draft writing on his facebook page that he was nervous?


“I wasn’t really sure, people were putting on the internet that I could be a number one pick but I wasn’t really sure,” Mwanga said, “I didn’t want to worry about it too much; I was just hoping that I get picked first, so I could come here.”


“We think Danny is a solid player,” said Nowak. “He’s going to contribute a lot to our club and we’re excited. Danny can do so many things and he has a tremendous work ethic. When I spoke to him, I could hear his energy. He knows how I am and what I expect. I know he’ll be a terrific addition to our team because of the character qualities he has.”


By the way, he’s not a bad little player.


During his first two seasons at Oregon State Mwanga was grabbing almost every accolade in sight; PAC-10 Freshman of the Year in 2008 and Pac-10 Player of the Year in 2009. This past season, he led the conference in multiple offensive categories including goals scored (14), points per game (1.67), goals per game (0.78) and game-winning goals (5).

So we kind of had an inkling the Union would make Mwanga their No. 1 pick, but I’m not sure any of us saw what was coming in the 24 hours leading up to the draft.


Two trades; One the night prior, that had Philadelphia sending their No. 1 allocation ranking to D.C., in exchange for allocation money, D.C. United’s 2010 MLS SuperDraft first round pick (No. 7 overall) and Brazilian midfielder Fred.


The United, by the way, used that allocation to obtain 2006 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, Troy Perkins.


Then just two hours before the draft, trade number two.  Philadelphia sending allocation money to F.C. Dallas, in exchange for the overall No. 6 pick in the draft.  All of a sudden, the Union with a trio of first round choices. Oh and did I mention they also had the top pick in rounds 2, 3, and 4.


So with their second selection in the first round, Philadelphia stayed out west and snagged 18-year-old UCLA midfielder Amobi Okugo. A two-time Parade All-American in high school, he earned Pac-10 Freshman of the Year honors this past season. Okugo played with the U-20 Mens National Team at the 2009 CONCACAF U-20 Championships and with the U-18 MNT at the 2009 Australian Youth Festival, scoring two goals in three games.


Then just one pick later at No. 7, the Union drafted Jack McInerney, a member of the U-17 MNT. McInerney appeared in all four games for the U.S. in the 2009 FIFA U-17 World Cup, scoring two goals in helping the squad to the Round of 16.  By the way  during his podium speech he wished his sister Casey a happy 16th birthday.


As far as the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th round picks: Philadelphia chose 24-year-old UConn Midfielder Toni Stahl, from Tuusula, Finland. Stahl, the 17th overall pick, earned Big East Rookie of the Year honors in 2006 and was an All-Big East first team member in 2007, 2008 and 2009.


The 33rd overall pick in the draft was 21-year-old UCLA midfielder Kyle Nakazawa, A

2009 semifinalist for the M.A.C. Hermann Trophy awarded to the best player in college soccer. Nakazawa was also in the U.S. Under-20 National Team pool.


Last but certainly not least, the 49th overall pick, UCLA goalkeeper Brian Park, who was voted a second-team NSCAA All-American and first-team All-Pac-10 honoree in 2009, as well as Top Drawer Soccer Team of the Season first team selection.


The keeper led the Pac-10 in goals against average (0.87) and recorded four shutouts and 53 saves. His 241 career saves rank him fourth on UCLA's all-time list. Park was also the starting goalkeeper for the U.S. at the 2009 FIFA Under-20 World Cup and the 2009 CONCACAF Under-20.


So there you have it, the first ever SuperDraft in Philadelphia Union history as the franchise captures what they hope are the building blocks to their future.