On Friday, Minnesota United augmented their attacking core by drafting UCLA forward Abu Danladi with the first overall pick in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft. In three seasons as a Bruin, Danladi scored 18 goals in addition to notching 18 assists across 42 matches, earning him a place on the MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List. United will be hoping he can transfer over that form to Major League Soccer.
Danladi joins burgeoning strike force
With Danladi's selection, United now have 15 players on the roster. The former Bruin joins Christian Ramirez and Femi Hollinger-Janzen as the men who will hope to ignite United's attack in their first foray into MLS.
Head Coach Adrian Heath seemed thrilled that Danladi has joined the Loons' ranks.
“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 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.”
Being drafted by United is merely the latest chapter in Danladi's unique Cinderella story. Born in Takoradi, Ghana, his soccer talent was spotted at a young age and he began playing at the Right to Dream Academy, which funnels talented West African soccer players to places around the world where their dreams can be realized. He moved to the United States in 2011 and was the Gatorade National Player of the Year for 2013-14 before attending UCLA. Now, he'll get the chance to star in MLS.
United brass pleased with pick
Adrian Heath isn't the only member of the United hierarchy pleased with the choice of the organization.
“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.”
As a member of the Generation Adidas class, Danladi will not count against United's overall salary budget, another boon for a team still assembling a full roster.
United build strength in depth late on in SuperDraft
Danladi was not the only player United added in the SuperDraft; with the 23rd pick in the first round and 20th pick in the second round, Wake Forest goalkeeper Alec Ferrell and University of Delaware defender Thomas De Villardi were selected.
With less than two months until United open MLS action in Portland against the Timbers, Lagos was thrilled by the day his club had and the process they continue to go through.
“I loved the day. I think it exceeded expectations, not just for how it went, but just the overall,” said Lagos. “This is going to resonate for us as a club forever because it's historic, with the first ever MLS number one draft pick, first ever expansion team number one pick, we're drafting a special kid, there's no doubt about it, you know this is a kid that wants to be a part of this project, wants to be part of us and he brought a lot of the energy that we felt as a staff today.”
United's MLS adventure kicks off March 3rd
United will play their first match in MLS on Friday, March 3rd against the Portland Timbers in the Rose City. They will make their home debut on March 12th at TCF Bank Stadium against Atlanta United FC.