Abu Danladi: 2017 AT&T Rookie of the Year

Forward Abu Danladi arrived in the league with a lot of talent and a load of expectations. After graduating from the Right to Dream Academy in Ghana, he came to the states and attended first Dunn High School and then UCLA before being selected first overall in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft by Minnesota United FC.

He came to Minnesota having hardly ever seen snow, and here he was as one of the most promising prospects on a roster built on a hard deadline. The team began the season still finding its feet as Head Coach Adrian Heath tinkered with lineups and formations. Part of that involved asking Danladi to play in a way he wasn’t used to out on the wing after playing as a striker for years. But on May 7 against Sporting KC, the young forward notched his first MLS goal, a beautiful, soft volley into the bottom corner that also happened to be the match-winner. He put the Loons over the top once again in late June against the Portland Timbers.

When he was called upon to step in as striker when forward Christian Ramirez went down, Danladi responded. He was instrumental in the Loons’ first road win of the year against the Chicago Fire, scoring the first goal and then the match-winner on a lunging strike after a curving cross from Jerome Thiesson. A few weeks later he turned in a pair of picture-perfect goals: yet another winner against the Montreal Impact in the match’s dying minutes and a screamer to open the scoring in Minnesota’s eventual 3-2 win over Atlanta United.

In all, Danladi has scored four match-winning goals, leading all rookies in 2017 and just two shy of Jordan Morris’ total when he won Rookie of the Year last season. He also leads all rookies with eight goals on the season.