CHESTER, Pa. – In their past four games, the Philadelphia Union have earned eight points, scored seven goals and climbed to the top of the Eastern Conference table.
Perhaps even more impressive, they’ve managed to do so without the services of one of their top offensive weapons – Danny Mwanga.
Mwanga, a dynamic second-year striker, hasn’t played since Sept. 17 because of a right hip flexor strain.
“Obviously I’m glad the team is doing well but, at the same time, it’s tough because you want to be out there,” Mwanga told MLSsoccer.com. “You want to be a part of it. But I know I still have a couple of games and then we’ll hopefully make the playoffs. So I’m working hard to be fit by then and be able to help my team.”
Mwanga, the top overall pick in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft, said he pulled his hip flexor in practice a couple of days after playing 27 minutes as a second-half sub in the Union’s 1-0 win over Columbus on Sept. 17.
He then didn’t make the 18-man roster in games against Sporting Kansas City (Sept. 23), D.C. United (Sept. 29) and Chivas USA (Oct. 2). Against Seattle this past Saturday, the striker was included on the travel roster but didn’t get into the game in Philly’s pivotal 2-0 win.
There is good news for Union fans, though: this week and last, Mwanga says he’s been training at close to full strength.
“It’s finally getting better,” he said. “I’m almost at 100 percent.”
Mwanga has battled a few minor injuries throughout his two-year career but he’s never been out of commission for this long. And even though the Union (11-7-14) have been proficient in the offensive third in recent weeks – with the red-hot Sébastien Le Toux leading the charge – they could certainly use Mwanga’s goal-scoring abilities as they look to clinch a playoff berth with a win over Toronto FC at PPL Park on Saturday (4 pm ET, watch LIVE online).
And, of course, Mwanga – who’s scored five goals this season but has none since June 25 – hopes to be back on the field for what he expects to be a memorable day in Chester.
“I think it’s going to be wonderful,” he said. “It’s our last game at home and I think the environment will be really nice. Toronto made a few changes on their team and they’re going to come out trying to prove something against us. I think it’s going to be a really good game.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @DaveZeitlin