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SmorgasBorg: Why Philly got better end of Mwanga-Perlaza deal

06 June 6:50 pm

SmorgasBorg: Why Philly got better end of Mwanga-Perlaza deal

By Simon Borg

Manchester United.

That’s the match – back in July 2010 – that many MLS observers still hang on to when it comes to reminding themselves of the promise of former Philadelphia Union striker Danny Mwanga.

But the magical days in a Union shirt for the former No. 1 SuperDraft pick have been few and far between in the last two seasons.

Mwanga’s last goal for Philadelphia in MLS play? It came nearly a year ago (June 25, 2011).

The 20-year-old has been on the field for 61 league matches over three seasons and found the back of the net in just 11 of those games.

One reason for the limited production is injuries. Plenty of them. Rarely will you find a third-year player who has missed matches due to the same variety of injuries: hip, right knee, groin, hamstring, shoulder and a case of sore ribs after falling on them in practice earlier this season.  

If Mwanga’s durability to withstand the physical rigors of MLS is a concern, his lack of production without Sebastien Le Toux is downright alarming. Of his 12 goals in his MLS career, nine came off assists from Le Toux. The other three were unassisted.

In MLS you have to be tough and you have to be ready to adjust to any situation and any player. That’s why the Union are better off with the experienced Jorge Perlaza.

The Timbers highlighted Perlaza's speed when they acquired him at the start of last season and we’ve seen signs of how much of a factor it can be. But not in the goal-scoring department. Six goals in 32 starts – none this year – is nothing to write home about.

However, put Perlaza’s production into perspective: The Timbers are a team that don’t score many goals in general, whether Perlaza is there or not. In fact, only three teams have scored fewer goals than the Timbers this year. It was the exact same story at the end of last year.

Does Mwanga have more upside? Sure. He also brings good hold-up ability and the potential to playmake and create his own opportunities. But that’s also what Darlington Nagbe was expected to bring at the second forward position.

Mwanga’s integration into Portland’s system and his impact on Nagbe’s position will be fascinating to watch. It may not prove as seamless, however, as Perlaza who has the traits to be the perfect partner for hard-working compatriot Lionard Pajoy in the Union attack.