The Philadelphia Union traded away another of their expansion originals on Wednesday, swapping the franchise’s first-ever MLS draft pick in Danny Mwanga to the Portland Timbers for speedy striker Jorge Perlaza.
Mwanga, 21, played prep soccer in Portland and starred at Oregon State before the Union used the top pick in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft to grab what most considered was the best young attacking player available. He scored seven goals and added four assists during his rookie season and another five goals and four assists during the team’s run to the postseason last year, but has struggled for playing time in 2012 and has yet to score a goal this season.
“It is a wonderful opportunity for me to come back to my hometown and play in front of family and friends,” Mwanga said in a statement. “I’m excited, and I can’t wait to get out to Portland and get to work. I’m proud to be a member of the Portland Timbers.”
WATCH: Mwanga’s late winner
The trade is the third deal made this year by the Union involving players who were regular starters during the team’s expansion season, after striker Sébastien Le Toux was dealt to Vancouver in January and former captain and defender Danny Califf was shipped to Chivas USA last month. Goalkeeper Faryd Mondragón, who was instrumental to the team’s first-ever postseason berth last year, returned to his native Colombia during the offseason.
The Union currently have just eight points through 11 games this season, though they earned a berth in the quarterfinals of the US Open Cup with a win over D.C. United on Tuesday night.
Perlaza, 27, heads to Philadelphia after a solid debut season in MLS last year but a mixed bag of success in his second year with the Timbers. Originally signed in March 2011 after he was spotted by Timbers general manager Gavin Wilkinson during a match with Deportes Tolima in Colombia, Perlaza scored six goals and added two assists in 31 appearances for Portland last season.
WATCH: Perlaza scores historic goal
He also scored the first-ever MLS goal at JELD-WEN Field last April, when the Timbers opened their renovated stadium with a rain-soaked 4-2 win over the Chicago Fire.
But Perlaza, like Mwanga with the Union, has struggled to replicate his success while his team continues to struggle. He has failed to score a goal or an assist in 10 appearances this season, while the Timbers have earned just 13 points through 12 league games.
“Jorge has been nothing but first class for this organization, a quality person both on and off the field," Timbers head coach John Spencer said in a statement. "We wish him all the best."
Perlaza likely becomes the top option to pair with his compatriot Lionard Pajoy up top for the Union, who have scored just eight goals this season, tied with Toronto FC for the fewest in the league.
Mwanga will likely battle with fellow youngster Darlington Nagbe for the right to pair with Designated Player Kris Boyd up top for the Timbers. Nagbe has scored three goals this season while appearing in all 12 games for the team.