Born to play

 Danny Mwanga goes for a kick on the field. 

It did not take much time for Danny Mwanga to make his mark on Oregon State’s Men’s Soccer team, playing in only two seasons, but making history for the Beavers’ en route to an MLS playing career.

Mwanga’s freshman season in 2008 earned the Beavers’ forward the honor of PAC-10 Freshman of The Year after tallying four goals in 11 starts for Oregon State. And while that 2008 season ended with a bit of disappointment on the team level after a 6-9-4 finish to the year, Mwanga was already impressing as a potential star on the rise. 

In 2009, Mwanga would prove that his first-year success was more than a flash in the pan. The four goals in 11 starts would earn the forward even more playing time for his 2009 sophomore season, where Mwanga proved that he could handle the extra workload. Starting in all 18 games in 2009, Mwanga finished the year with 14 goals, two assists, and 64 total shots.

Mwanga’s efforts were repaid in full on the team level. Oregon State’s 9-6-3 record was the team’s first winning season since 2005, and their second-place finish in the PAC-10 was their best since 2003. 

Adding PAC-10 Player of The Year and First-Team All-American to his resume, Mwanga began attracting the attention of professional teams, and decided to end his career with the Beavers after his sophomore season to pursue a career in the MLS. From there, Mwanga focused his made the move from All-American to a Major League Soccer draft prospect, managing to make Oregon State history along the way.

With the first pick in the first round of the 2010 MLS SuperDraft, the expansion team Philadelphia Union used their franchise’s first SuperDraft pick to select Danny Mwanga. With the selection alone, Mwanga was making Beavers’ history. Not only was the forward Oregon State’s first-ever Beaver to be the top pick in the MLS SuperDraft, he was the first Beaver to be taken in the first round at all.

Once making it to the MLS, Mwanga picked up where he left off at Oregon State. Though the Union struggled as a whole in 2010 for Mwanga’s rookie season, the former Beaver was integral to Philadelphia's team, despite being only 18 years old. 

Mwanga appeared in 24 games in 2010 and started in 17 of them. Those 17 starts were all the forward needed to make an impact, as he finished his rookie season with seven goals, four assists and a nomination for MLS Rookie of The Year.

In 2011, Mwanga followed up his strong first season with another solid year with Philadelphia. This time around, the forward made his way into 28 games, managing five goals and four assists along the way. But much like how his Oregon State teams improved from year one to year two, Mwanga’s Union teams improved in his second season as well.

The Union went from 8-15-7, the third-worst record in the MLS in 2010, to 11-8-15 the following year with a trip to the MLS Cup Playoffs as the Western Conference’s third-seed. Though the Union would end up losing their playoff series to the second-seed Houston Dynamo, this would mark Mwanga’s only appearance to the MLS Cup Playoffs.

Mwanga’s time with the Philadelphia Union came to an end in 2012, but the Oregon State soccer star made his way onto a few more MLS rosters in his career, bouncing from Philadelphia to the Portland Timbers in 2012 and the Colorado Rapids in 2013.

For all that he accomplished both in the MLS, and with Oregon State, Mwanga managed to add one more title to his resume in 2020 when he was inducted into the Beavers’ Sports Hall of Fame. To this day, Danny Mwanga remains as the only Beaver taken with the first overall pick of an MLS SuperDraft. 

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