Philadelphia Union Star Danny Mwanga is on the Ball
by Marni Prichard Manko
In a city that’s notoriously captious about its teams, the Philadelphia Union has a lot to prove during its inaugural season as a Major League Soccer club. Crucial to the Union’s success is first-round MLS SuperDraft pick Danny Mwanga.
The 18-year-old phenom’s ascent to sports superstardom is only matched in drama by his personal story. Mwanga emigrated from the violence-torn Republic of the Congo when he was 14. His father, a high-ranking politico, disappeared during the 1997 civil war and his mother had since fled the country, leaving him to be raised by relatives.
Mwanga eventually reunited with his mother in the US and settled in Portland, Oregon, where he played soccer at Oregon State University. His talent was quickly spotted by scouts in the big leagues. Union manager Peter Nowak says Mwanga has maturity beyond his years. “The hard things he’s experienced continue to motivate him as a person and a player,” he explains.
In Mwanga’s mind, though, he’s simply living a dream. “Not many kids my age have the chance to play professionally,” he says. “I’m looking forward to playing the best soccer I possibly can.
PHOTOGRAPH BY BRIAN BLANCO