Fitting Mwanga would show reserve in his greatest hour, considering that his journey to that moment was riddled with hardship. A native of Congo, his mother - whom he had been separated from and later reunited with as a teen - fled to America soon after a coup took the life of his father, Belmond Mwanga, an adviser to then dictator Joseph-Desire Mobutu. That bit of information was hard to pry from the soft-spoken teen. Instead, he chooses to reflect on the good times, like being discovered for his soccer ability when he was 13.
A boy among men, Mwanga trained with Congolese first division club FC Armel, who had the services of his uncle, Jean Claude Mwanga, as a striker.
"I was training with my uncle and people kept telling him that I was good and that I should keep playing," said Danny Mwanga. "My mom [Leontine] left when I was very young and I followed my uncle around. I wanted to be like him one day and, like him, I had the desire to be a professional soccer player."
America is where Mwanga and the soccer talent he possesses flourished. After a 2-year reign at Oregon State secured his trip to MLS and Philadelphia, Mwanga is slowly but assuredly beginning to accept his destiny as a superstar.
"A lot of people think because he was the No. 1 draft pick he was supposed to come here and score a bunch of goals and that's just not how it happens," said manager Peter Nowak. "He has a lot to learn, but he has come a long way already and he has a mind that just soaks up information. It has taken a lot of work to get him to where he is now, but we knew [when he was drafted] this day would come. He will be dangerous because he has the abilities and the work ethic to make his game perfect."
In the May 15 match against FC Dallas at Lincoln Financial Field, a game-tying goal in stoppage time turned on a confidence switch in Mwanga that today, six goals later, warrants MLS Rookie of the Year talk. What once was a timid, scared kid, unsure - or perhaps even doubtful - of his abilities on the pro level is now a poised forward who shows promise. Don't believe me? YouTube his goal against MLS champion Real Salt Lake Wednesday night. Or his tally against Houston (May 29), or his game-winner against Seattle (June 27), or . . .
"For me it was seeing my mom and making her proud," Mwanga said. "Soccer was the one thing I had that really helped make my mom proud of me. My family is pretty humble though, especially my mom, who loves saying 'the sky's the limit.' I know I have a lot to learn, but I hope that what I have done so far has made my fans, my teammates and my family very proud."
Something to ponder . . .
For the readers who continually ask, "Wasn't there anyone out there better than Seitz?" when the Union technical staff was compiling its roster, my answer is yes.
Now that's not to say Seitz isn't destined to become an elite goalkeeper in MLS. But in November's expansion draft there were high-caliber keepers on the market. One, in particular, was three-time MLS All-Star Kevin Hartman, 36, left unprotected by Kansas City. Now with FC Dallas, Hartman's numbers lead the league.
In addition, Pat Onstad and his 1.07 goals-against average was left unprotected by Houston and was bypassed. Seitz was the U.S. goalkeeper at the Olympic Games in Beijing. Nowak served as head coach. The two have history, but does knowing a guy mean you give him the starting role on your brand new team when he's still relatively green? As the last line of defense, goalkeeper is the one position you don't skimp on. I think the technical staff took a gamble and are now in the red because of it.
On a personal note . . .
The River End is, without question, one of the best fan sections in the league. The drums, unique songs and creative heckling is pure Philly. But on one play, the group and fans who have recently joined the bandwagon go a bit too far.
On restarts that involve the opposing goalkeeper, a chant that goes along the lines of "you stink dunghole" bellows through PPL Park. If you've been to a game, you know. On Wednesday, the proverbial straw for me was when I overheard a pair of preteens re-enact it.
Last week, Sons of Ben president Bryan James posted on Facebook lobbying for supporters to consider another carol. James told the Daily News he is not in favor of the current chant. "There is a way to be cunning without using profanity," James said. "But because it's so well-coordinated it really offends some people's sensibilities."
This week, brass from the Union and the SOBs met in an effort to determine what's acceptable and what's clearly not.
"The atmosphere in our stadium is unreal, but we are sensitive to the families that are in the crowd," Union president Tom Veit said. "It is something that is done at almost every stadium. When 200 Red Bull supporters do it no one hears. Bottom line, we aren't there to be the fun police and we welcome good-natured ribbing, but in this case we are asking for something a bit more creative."
Veit added that stadium language is scheduled to be the topic of an online survey in the near future.
Shots on goal
Colorado (7-5-6) at Union (4-10-4)
When: Tomorrow, 4 o'clock
Where: PPL Park, Chester
On the web: Streaming webcast on MLSSoccer.com
For kicks: Coming off a tie of defending MLS champion Real Salt Lake on Wednesday night, the Union returns to PPL to face forward Conor Casey and the Colorado Rapids, a team holding down the fifth spot in the Western Conference (27 points). Casey, a mainstay in the U.S. national team pool, has seven goals this season for the Rapids . . . Colorado goalieMatt Pickens ranks among the top five MLS keepers with an 0.94 goals-against average and five shutouts . . . Colorado ranks low in goal scoring, averaging a goal a game on the road . . . Before Wednesday's match, the Union had the best attendance mark in the league, averaging 21,319 over seven matches.
INJURY REPORT: Out for the Union: Shea Salinas, MF (left fibular fracture); questionable: Stefani Miglioranzi, MF (right groin strain); probable: Danny Mwanga, FW (left groin strain); Jordan Harvey, DF (left groin strain)
No injuries to report for Colorado
HE SAID IT: "They're dangerous going forward, but then they got a little bit stretched out when they gave up our goal. That's been a bit typical of them this season." - Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis' analysis of the Union
How old was Penn Charter alum Bobby Convey when he signed with Major League Soccer?
By Jamie Clary, author of the "First American Soccer Trivia Book," available at: www.soccerprofessor.com
Send search engine-free answer to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Answer will appear in upcoming Union Meeting. Congrats to Mike Richter of Kensington, who, last week, correctly answered Kearny, N.J., as the town that boasted three players on the 1990 U.S. World Cup roster.