Marc Narducci: Danny Mwanga failed to reach potential, but Union didn't help him much

Peter Nowak
Peter Nowak
Posted: June 09, 2012

It was a simple question that went unanswered, which can happen when the team is selling out virtually every game. But it still needs to be addressed.

Union team manager Peter Nowak held a news conference Thursday discussing the trade of Danny Mwanga to the Portland Timbers for Jorge Perlaza.

It was a deal involving two strikers who haven't scored yet this season for teams that are struggling to hit the back of the net.

Yet this was much more than that.

This was trading a player who is still considered by many one of the brightest talents in Major League Soccer.

Mwanga won't turn 21 until next month, and he was the No. 1 overall pick in the MLS draft by the Union in 2010, their inaugural season.

He had seven goals and four assists as a rookie and showed explosive ability, teaming well with Sebastien Le Toux.

Last season, Mwanga had five goals and four assists. This season, in nine games, he had no goals and one assist.

While a player can't be judged by statistics alone, this isn't showing progression.

So Nowak was asked the one question that he decided not to sidestep - how much blame goes to Mwanga, and how much to the team, for his regression?

"I can't analyze that," Nowak said. "I will leave it up to you to address the thing."

It says here, and has been voiced before, that Mwanga should have been left in the lineup the entire time from day one, with the exception of the periods when he was injured. Instead, he often didn't start games or wouldn't appear at all.

He appeared in 61 games for the Union, and started just 35.

Nowak frequently has said that players coming out of college - the way Mwanga did from Oregon State - need to know how to pace themselves and that at times the manager was sitting him for his own good, basically so he wouldn't burn out.

We never bought that line of thinking. When you have a talent who has the most desired skill in soccer - the ability to break down opponents - let him play.

So in that aspect, it appears the Union didn't develop him to his fullest.

Mwanga also deserves some of the blame. He was a hard worker, well-respected in the locker room, but he didn't always cash in on chances, which is how a striker is measured.

Still, had he been left on the field more often, things might have changed.

It's not fair to say this is a bad trade because Perlaza, who turns 28 in October, deserves the benefit of the doubt.

Nowak said that Perlaza would bring another dimension.

"Danny Mwanga is very good with the ball and good to draw defenders, but it was difficult for him to stretch the field," Nowak said. "With Jorge, he can stretch the field and make bigger and better runs."

That remains to be seen, but Mwanga certainly can put fear in defenders. Maybe if he's on the field for 90 minutes a game, not looking over his shoulder, things will change in Portland.

Nowak also said that other factors went into the trade, alluding to potential long-term decisions on contracts.

No doubt, Mwanga still most likely has some big paydays ahead.

Again, an organization has to do what is best, and that includes the financial side. That's fine.

Where the Union lose points is that they had a true talent - and under their watch he never came close to reaching his full potential. Union fans likely have to come to grips with the fact that Mwanga's better days await him.

Toronto coach exits

Toronto FC head coach Aron Winter is stepping down after a dismal start to the season that has left the club with the fewest points in the MLS.

Toronto FC is 1-9-0 and has been outscored 21-8 this season.

The 45-year-old Winter leaves Toronto with a regular-season mark of 7-22-15, winning just one game on the road.

His team was outscored 80-44 during his tenure.

Toronto got its first league win this season in its 10th match, when it beat the visiting Union, 1-0, on May 26.

The nine-game losing streak to start the season was a league record.

Contact Marc Narducci at 856-779-3225, or follow on Twitter @sjnard.

This article contains information from the Associated Press

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