Their stadium isn’t finished being built yet. Their uniforms just hit retail stores. So it’s only fitting that the face of the franchise is only 18 years old.
The Union made Oregon State striker Danny Mwanga the No. 1 overall pick in Thursday’s Major League Soccer (MLS) SuperDraft at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.
Mwanga, a native of the Democratic Republic of Congo, moved to the U.S. four years ago to play club soccer. Now, he’s the building block for MLS’ newest expansion team.
“I’m very excited, it’s such a great honor for me,” Mwanga said. “I definitely didn’t think I’d be standing here in front of you. This is probably the best day of my life.”
But the youth movement didn’t stop there. After two trades netted the sixth and seventh overall picks, the Union drafted Amobi Okugo, age 18, and Jack McInerney, 17.
“It’s a mixture of youth and experience, and I’m really excited to play for the new expansion team,” Okugo said. “My thought so far, and Danny [Mwango] as well, is to make an immediate impact.”
When asked if the three youngsters could realistically do that, Union coach Peter Nowak quipped: “Yes, that’s why we make those moves.”
Nowak, regarded as a stern disciplinarian, led D.C. United to a MLS Cup in 2004 and is the only person to win a Cup as both a player and coach. In other words, he knows how to win. He also knows his team is a work in progress.
“You got to keep them on the ground and make sure they’re going to develop in the right way,” Nowak said. “Maybe not in the first month, but second, third, fourth … they will develop in the right way and play well for us.”