It all started in 2007 at the Nomads Tournament in San Diego. Our silver elite U-16 club team was slated to open group play against the Oregon State Champions, WSM Internationals. It was a beautiful day – perfect for soccer.
Little did we know a nightmare was around the corner. My brother and I started our team’s warm-up, then proceeded to observe our opponents. Our eyes drifted to a player who happened to be juggling. Then we looked at one another and said:
“Oh shit, this guy is going to rape us!”
In the next 10 minutes or so, we pointed him out to a handful of people that came to talk. They told us:
“Anyone can juggle or look decent during warm-ups. That doesn’t mean they are any good.”
On the surface, that’s a true statement. But we knew better. The way he caressed the ball, not kicked (there is a difference), was exquisite and clearly showed his class. We didn’t have to see anymore, and those that didn’t know any better were about to find out.
He raped us that game! Scored the opening goal and had the assist on the other. But more important than that, it was an eye opening experience for many of our players. They were introduced to what a true badass is. Aside from Danny’s technical quality, he demonstrated a superb Soccer IQ. He always played simple and made the right decisions – not trying to do things himself. We lost that game 2-0 and it set the stage for a future rivalry.
Our next encounter happened the following year at the US Youth Club Regional semifinal held in Hawaii. Our team was now U-17 Gold and had taken a big stride in development. As coaches we made sure to employ proper “ladder marking”, and our returning players were more focused. Although he was contained to a certain degree, he was still a handful throughout the game and did end up scoring on a brilliant move and intentionally placed well-weighted shot. That day we came out the victors 3-2 in overtime.
We would have our final clash with Danny at U-18 Regionals the subsequent year. He had just finished his first year at Oregon State and been named Pac-10 Freshman Of The Year.
From this side of the fence, our team had further developed – now Premier level.
As luck would have it, we were drawn in the same pool with the Oregon State Champs. Together with their coach, we laughed at the news. Our teams were the heavy favorites to take the title and we’re in the same group!
Preparation for that game was no different than last time – proper ladder marking and a focus on Mwanga. He was once again a handful, to say the least. What came through in the end was his Soccer IQ. With our focus on him, he enabled his teammates through proper decision making on and off the ball to shuttle in a 2-1 victory off two penalty kicks – one of which he took.
In the end, he is a physical specimen, but that’s not what makes him truly elite – size, strength, and speed can be found anywhere!
No, his Technical Quality and Soccer IQ is the story!
He finished off his sophmore season at Oregon State with 14 goals and 2 assists earning him Pac-10 Player of the Year and All American honors.
The latest news is he has signed a lucrative Generation Adidas contract with MLS and is likely to be the #1 Draft Pick next week.
Congratulations Danny! We new you were the best of the age group the moment you caressed the ball.