Nowak explains Mwanga trade, Union's vision
CHESTER, Pa. -- Peter Nowak sat at the PPL Park press table on Thursday afternoon to do something he seems to do once a month these days: explain the trade of a high-profile player.
This time around, it was forward Danny Mwanga, the Union’s first-ever draft selection and first-overall pick in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft, who was sent to the Portland Timbers for 27-year-old striker Jorge Perlaza and allocation money.
Nowak explained that Mwanga simply didn’t fit the on-field puzzle the Union were trying to put together.
“It’s not Danny’s fault,” said Nowak, whose team is sitting at 2-7-2 in the standings. “It’s nothing against Danny, I think there is different qualities we need right now because the configuration and structure of our team changed a little bit. We want to give the guys up front a bit more freedom so we needed different qualities. It’s important to find the right pieces to fit the team you have and to fulfill what we need right now. Jorge is going to bring those qualities to our team.”
Mwanga, 20, is the fourth popular Union member to be moved since the start of the 2011 season. First went left back Jordan Harvey, then the team’s leading scorer Sebastien Le Toux. Captain Danny Califf made headlines by being traded just weeks ago and now Mwanga, the Union’s most popular striker and image of the team’s inception, has been moved.
“I don’t wake up in the morning and say lets trade this guy,” said Nowak. “That’s not what happens. It’s our collective decisions. We talk with the players, make them aware of the situations so we are on the same page.”
But why now? Although the Union’s struggles make deck-shuffling less surprising, there were rumors during the off-season SuperDraft that Mwanga was being sought after by Portland. The Union shrugged off all suitors and closed the door on the young striker’s availability.
“If you look at the standings, if you look at the goals we have scored this season, we can’t rely on just one guy who can score goals,” said Nowak. “It’s either [Pajoy] or Gabriel Gomez who score our goals. We have to be dangerous up front. The young guys we have are moving along but they are not there yet. But we cannot wait for them.
“Both teams were looking from the technical standpoint, both teams were not looking for change, per se, but we were both looking for someone to compliment the strikers we have. We try to add different components to this and try to find a way to put two or three strikers.”
Mwanga, who scored just 12 goals in 42 games with the Union and none this season, wasn’t the player that the Union hoped he’d become or one that could gel with the team’s current configuration. With Pajoy working as the constant, the Union wanted someone who would be aggressive and attack the defense.
They think Perlaza is that player.
“Danny Mwanga is very good with the ball at his feet and he’s good at drawing defenders, but he had a difficult time stretching the field,” said Nowak. “With Jorge, we have a guy who can stretch the field and make bigger and better runs off Pajoy. Both teams can find good components to their lineups. It’s a good trade for both teams.”
“We brought him in to stretch the team,” said the coach of Perlaza. “He’s the guy going behind defenders and not afraid to stretch the back line and go into the channels that make defenders think. We struggled at that and now we have the guy who is very good at it. We now have another option to keep defenders busy and stretch the back line to move the midfield higher. In the last couple games we’ve played next to each other – no one is going behind the defenders. We want to play three strikers and use Freddy [Adu] in a spot where he can be creative.”
But despite the sudden bevy of transactions, which projects as all business from the Union’s side, moving Mwanga wasn’t an easy choice for Nowak.
“I was the one who flew on Christmas Eve to Portland to convince him not to go to France on a trial and come to MLS,” said Nowak. “I spent time with his family, his guardians, his college coaches. You never know how these things play out in the future. My responsibilities are still with the team. You wish things work the other way but that’s the reality we are in.
“Danny was a consummate professional on and off the field, and I can’t say one bad word about his work ethic. He was great.”E-mail Ryan Bright at email@example.com