With the first overall pick in the 2017 MLS Superdraft Minnesota United has selected UCLA Junior Abu Danladi. The 21-year-old Ghanaian forward has shown great promise in his three years with UCLA, improving each season and finishing his collegiate career with the Bruins on a high note with seven goals in eleven matches. Danladi joins forwards Christian Ramirez and Femi Hollinger-Janzen in the MNUFC attacking core.
“Just huge potential, there were two or three kids that we thought were very good players, but we just feel that the upside on this kid, the sky is the limit for him,” said Minnesota United Head Coach Adrian Heath. “If we think he can do what he can do in the pro game and we think there is a lot of growth still in him as a player and as a person, then we could have a real special talent on our hands. I think the fact that nearly every club in MLS contacted us at some point too, talking about maybe wanting to trade for the pick tells us what everyone else thinks about him as well.”
Danladi was born in Takoradi, Ghana, moving to the United States in 2011 as a product of the Right to Dream Academy – a program that helps talented children from West Africa fulfil their potential by providing educational and athletic opportunities. He attended Dunn High School, winning the 2013-14 Gatorade National Player of the Year award before committing to UCLA.
“On the field we know this kid has got incredible potential and could be a superstar in the league, but he exploded in the interview off the field in terms of personality and what he brings to what I think is a special community,” said Minnesota United Sporting Director Manny Lagos. “We're a diverse community, I think Minnesotans are just going to be incredibly impressed by what type of person we're drafting.”
Appearing in 42 matches with the Bruins, Danladi tallied an impressive 18 goals scored and 18 assists, earning a place on the MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List. Danladi is known for taking on defenders with his dribbling skills and has the ability to shoot and score from all over the pitch.
When covered closely, he is able to create space with his pace and was a key contributor in UCLA’s 2014 run to the NCAA National Championship. Danladi has also gained experience at the next level, playing summer soccer with the Ventura County Fusion of the PDL, where he scored against LA Galaxy II in the second round of the 2015 U.S. Open Cup.
“The fact that when you watch him play, there is so much that he can do and there is still so much more that's the exciting part and as I've said before, it's got to come from him – he' got to want it badly enough – but if we can work hard with him and he wants it as badly as I think he does, this could be a huge player for Minnesota moving forward,” Heath said.
Danladi is one of only five players in the 2017 Generation Adidas class. The Generation Adidas program is jointly organized by Adidas and MLS and dedicated to keeping and developing domestic talent in the United States and Canada in a professional environment. Generation Adidas players do not count against a team’s overall salary budget.
There is sure to be excitement surrounding Danladi as he joins his teammates in Minnesota later this month. With the club releasing its full schedule earlier this week, now is a great time to join MNUFC in Major League Soccer. Season tickets and your place in the Itasca Society are available now at MNUFC.COM. Find your seat today and be part of a historic inaugural season in MLS. Single match tickets will be available on Feb. 9.