Pajoy-Mwanga combo shows promise for Philly in loss
CHESTER, Pa. — Through two games, it’s become apparent that Lionard Pajoy is the top dog in the Philadelphia Union’s revamped attack.
Now the question is who will emerge as his second-in-command.
GOAL: Pajoy finally breaks through
Costa Rican Josué Martínez started the opener vs. Portland alongside Pajoy before Danny Mwanga replaced him in the 60th minute and Jack McInerney came on as a third striker for the final 16 minutes.
Then, in the Union’s home opener vs. Colorado on Sunday, Mwanga and Pajoy both played a full 90, while Martínez was used as the first striker off the bench. After that a game, Union manager Peter Nowak discussed the value of a Pajoy-Mwanga pairing up top.
“Those are our best strikers,” Nowak said. “I think the combination, in the first half especially, was very good. The more they play together, the more they understand each other and those things will not change.”
So far this season, the 30-year-old Pajoy has certainly been one of the Union’s top players, on offense or otherwise. After the loss to Portland, Nowak praised Pajoy for his activity in the offensive third, and the Colombian followed that up with the team’s only goal in a 2-1 loss to Colorado on Sunday.
Pajoy also almost scored a late equalizer vs. the Rapids and generally teamed up well with Mwanga, who had a prime scoring opportunity of his own earlier in the game.
“I think we have a lot of work to do,” Mwanga said. “But where we started since the preseason to now, I have no doubts that we are moving in the right direction.”
In his first two years in the league, the talented Mwanga was mainly paired with Sébastien Le Toux, who he enjoyed a nice bond with on and off the field.
But even with the high-scoring Le Toux now in Vancouver, Mwanga appears confident in Philly's Pajoy-led striking corps, which put serious pressure on the Rapids through most of Sunday’s game.
“We attacked more and we created a lot of chances,” Mwanga said. “We definitely got some good things going. We’ve just got to make sure we keep doing what we’re doing and move forward.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org