With today's acquisition of Danny Mwanga from the Philadelphia Union in exchange for Jorge Perlaza, much has been made of Mwanga's Rose City roots. Originally born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mwanga and his family fled the Congolese civil war in 2006 to settle in Northeast Portland whereupon he starred for Jefferson High School (53 goals in nine games) and later for Oregon State University (Pac-10 Player and Freshman of the Year in 2009).
Stephen Alexander of the Portland Tribune did a nice profile of Mwanga and the story of his journey to the United States when the then-Union forward came to take on the Timbers last season:
Mwanga was born into the bloodshed and sorrow of the Second Congo War. The war claimed the life of his father and forced his mother to flee the country, leaving Mwanga and his three older sisters behind. As a boy, Mwanga played soccer in the streets after school to forget some of the pain. A daring escape in June 2006 reunited Mwanga and his sisters with their mother in Northeast Portland.
It's a good read. Check it out here.
Searching through our own PortlandTimbers.com archives, last season Terry Horstman spoke with Mwanga's former Oregon State Beavers coach Steve Simmons as well as John Bain--president of Mwanga's youth team and adidas Timbers Alliance club, Westside Timbers. Bain is also a current Timbers alumni ambassador.
“He’s really humble, he really appreciates everybody, and he’s a really genuine and nice person.” Westside [Timbers] President and Timbers Ring of Honor inductee John Bain said. “I don’t think we’ve seen the surface of how good he’s going to be.”
At that same match in Portland last season, 400 of Mwanga's family and friends from the Westside team were in attendance. It's another great read.
The influence that Westside had on Mwanga is unmistakeable. In an article MLSsoccer.com did on Mwanga's homecoming, they talked about the role youth coach Monty Hawkins had on the young forward:
From teaching him how to drive to helping him find out where to go to school, Hawkins filled a very large void in the teenager’s life. “He helped me a lot and is a big part of my family,” Mwanga said.
Check out the full article here.
Timbers fans in Oregon, do you remember Mwanga's youth in Portland? Share your stories and memories in the comments below.