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More than a good day in Philadelphia

Danny Mwanga

Danny Mwanga

As the MLS Superdraft approached, most analysts were predicting a good draft day for the Philadelphia Union. The club owned the first pick in each of the draft’s four rounds, and the year’s class of college players and US youth internationals was widely considered to be one of the best in years, maybe ever. The club could expect to pick two, maybe even three top prospects. On the internet–on blogs and facebook and the ever-noisy twitterverse–there was a palpable excitment among Union fans as the day approached.

Then, late Wednesday night, word emerged of a major trade between Philadelphia and DC United. The Union would receive DC’s Brazilian midfielder Fred, the number seven pick in the draft, and allocation money. DC would take the Union’s place in the allocation order and use the position to re-sign their former star goalkeeper, Troy Perkins. Fans were thrilled. Most analysts believed the Union made out big with the trade.

But the late deals were not done yet. Thursday morning, just hours before the draft, word of yet another major trade slipped out. The Union would exchange an undisclosed amount of allocation money for FC Dallas’ sixth overall draft pick.

Two hours before the club’s first ever superdraft, the Philadelphia Union now possessed three of the top ten picks.

Shortly after 2pm Don Garber took the stage at the convention center and, with little fanfare, announced the Union’s first ever draft pick: Danny Mwanga, the 18-year-old forward from Oregon State, who scored 14 goals in 18 games last season. It was an expected move. It didn’t surprise anyone.

Still, the Sons of Ben and other Union supporters broke out in song. Months–years–of waiting, and the Philadelphia Union was finally materializing before their eyes. On ESPN, it sounded like the convention center had been transformed into a European soccer stadium–or, rather, a Philadelphia soccer stadium: Ohhh Dannnny Mwanga. Ohhh Dannnny Mwanga. Ohhh Dannnny Mwanga . . .

The draft continued. Three other players were chosen: Amobi Okugo, Jack McInerney, Toni Stahl. By the time Stahl was picked, at the start of the second round, the excitement began to ebb. ESPN had already ended their covereage. The tweets slowed down and so did the live blogs. Not very much comes out of the later rounds, many thought. We’ve gotten our main haul.

But the club wasn’t finished yet.

When all was said and done the Union had chosen the most players of any team in the draft–six. Each of these players–including the third round pick Kyle Nakazawa and the fourth round pick Brian Perk–were projected to go in the first or second round in most pre-draft analyses.

It was not a “good draft day” for the club. It was a draft day that the Philadelphia Union dominated.

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