Mwanga's skillset seems fit for Portland
On Wednesday, an adopted son returned home when the Portland Timbers acquired Danny Mwanga from the Philadelphia Union in exchange for Jorge Perlaza.
Mwanga first arrived in Portland as a 15-year-old with refugee status after leaving the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo.
Mwanga now returns to Portland after a two-and-a-half year stint with the Union. After being drafted No. 1 overall in the 2010 draft by the expansion Union, Mwanga has seen his share of ups-and-downs on the pitch. A successful rookie campaign led to a roller coaster sophomore season. His 2012 season has been marred with few games and even fewer scoring chances for the one of the MLS’s worst clubs.
The trade might give the 20-year old the boost he needs to fulfill his potential as one of the best players in the MLS.
One thing is certain when you watch Mwanga play. The Jefferson High grad has the talent to be successful at the top level of soccer. His highlight reel is filled with backheel assists, dribbles that leave defenders in their wake, and shots that see the back of the net before goalkeepers know what happened.
If the Timbers can get Mwanga and Darlington Nagbe to become consistent players, they will have two of the most highly skilled attacking footballers in the MLS.
Mwanga seems to be able to hold off defenders with his back to the goal and is able to beat them with speed on counter attacks. The majority of his career goals have come while playing off another center forward and Mwanga seems more comfortable at the top of the 18-yard box than trying to poach inside it.
His habit of staying away from frame means he might be the perfect pairing for Timbers striker Kris Boyd, who is comfortable playing near the goalmouth.
The question will be if the Timbers have the quality to get Mwanga the ball in the attacking half. Mwanga has struggled in his last 20 games - one of the main reasons being his inability to develop a rapport with the Union midfielders. While Diego Chara’s passing numbers are outstanding, making attacking passes through the middle of the pitch has been a major Timbers weakness in 2012.
Video study reveals that Mwanga is at his best when the attack comes on the ground through the center of the field. Portland’s offensive gameplans usually revolve attacking the outside-in with numerous crosses. This might not mesh with a player who has never scored a goal on a header.
Despite his 6-foot-2 inch frame, Mwanga does damage with his feet not with an aerial game. While flick-on headers are part of Mwanga’s arsenal, the Timbers would be foolish to rely on Mwanga as a presence in the air on set pieces.
The man Mwanga is replacing, Jorge Perlaza, had certain strengths, that the Timbers will need to replace. Perlaza ran down long balls from defenders better than any Timber has in their time in the MLS. Mwanga has the burst to track down long balls and the one-touch finishing ability once he gets the space. However, Mwanga might not be able to match the durability of Perlaza late in matches. For all his faults, Perlaza always provided energy at the top for the Timbers.
Mwanga will likely get playing time right away for the Timbers, as they are searching for someone who can pair well with Boyd. The former Oregon State Beaver certainly has the skill, but will he be able to produce like a No. 1 overall pick should? If he does, Portland’s adopted son might be able to help lead the Timbers to the postseason.