Jorge Perlaza

Danny Mwanga for Jorge Perlaza: Reactions to a move that needed to happen

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Philadelphia’s at it again. It wasn’t so long ago that they were saying goodbye to their captain. Now, their first draft pick is being sent home.

Danny Mwanga, selected first in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft after two years at Oregon State, has been traded to the Portland Timbers for Colombian attacker Jorge Perlaza. According to a release from Portland, the trade was straight up: no draft picks, allocation money, or drinks thrown into the deal.

In addition to spending two years in Corvallis, Mwanga attended high school in Portland.

“It is a wonderful opportunity for me to come back to my hometown and play in front of family and friends,” said Mwanga, in a statement distributed by the Timbers. “I’m excited, and I can’t wait to get out to Portland and get to work.”

It’s a move that’s been speculated for some time. This summer, news broke that Philly was shopping Mwanga, with Portland thought to be the 20-year-old’s most likely landing spot. That talk cooled when Sebastien Le Toux left Philadelphia for Vancouver.

In the interim, Portland’s struggled to score goals. Their 12 tallies rank 16th in Major League Soccer.

More than that, the mix just hasn’t been right. Kris Boyd’s making $1.2 million to be the focal point, but he’s scored only four times in 12 games, with few of his goals being the product of a concerted tactical effort. John Spencer has tried pairing him with Perlaza, Darlington Nagbe, and nobody (leaving him on his own), but nothing’s really worked. As a result, a team expected to contend for a playoff spot sits six points back of fifth place.

It was time for a shake up.

“Danny is an experienced, young player who has shown that he can be productive in this league during his time with Philadelphia,” Spencer said. “He has roots in Portland, his family still lives here, and we look forward to getting him integrated into the team quickly.”

Mwanga’s clearly going to be partnered with Boyd. Darlington Nagbe will stay at the tip of Spencer’s midfield diamond, perpetuating another Portland problem: Their best goal scorer might be one too many levels away from goal.

For Philadelphia, the implications are clearer. Perlaza replaces Mwanga as an alternate attacking option. If he impresses Peter Nowak, he could challenge Lionard Pajoy for playing time (or perhaps Nowak starts playing with two strikers more often). Regardless, this is a situation where Philadelphia’s getting a ‘maybe’ in exchange for a ‘no’ (Mwanga hadn’t scored in 458 minutes of playing time this season).

The big benefit for Phliadelphia is getting Mwanga’s contract off their books. Mwanga is making over $350,000 on a deal that’s expected to escalate again next season. That’s a lot for somebody who’s not contributing. Perlaza, in contrast, makes $115,000.

With a talented prospect rotting on their bench, Philadelphia needed to move Mwanga for whatever they could get. At the same time, Portland needed a shake up in attack.

Now, Portland can move forward. In Philadelphia, however, a one-time symbol of hope has been let go in a cost-cutting move.

Seeing their team sitting ninth in the East, how are Union fans supposed to feel about that?