At Seattle on Aug. 19, Abu Danladi had two glaring misses en route to the Loons’ last-minute loss.
A week later at Chicago, the rookie forward redeemed himself.
The No. 1 pick’s two first-half goals gave Minnesota United to a 2-1 victory Saturday over the Fire, a top team in the league. It also vaulted the Loons out of last place in MLS to ninth in the Western Conference at 7-14-4.
“Before the game, I thought about composure and taking my time to finish the ball, and I think from looking back from last week, that’s where I learned from the mistakes I made,” Danladi said. “I tried to make it better. I think that’s what I did [Sunday]. That’s why I got those two goals.”
Coach Adrian Heath said earlier in the week Danladi’s point-blank whiffs at Seattle didn’t concern him. In fact, Heath said he felt Danladi probably could have scored one or two goals in several recent matches because the 21-year-old was putting himself in good positions.
At Chicago, Ethan Finlay fed the ball into the box and Danladi managed to scramble it in for his first goal after some failed clearance attempts. Jerome Thiesson then assisted Danladi’s second, a pass just in front of the forward that Danladi slid to meet and punch home.
“I didn’t have another choice than to put it directly into the middle,” Thiesson said of his pass. “Of course, Abu’s quickness helped a lot, because I think the ball wasn’t that perfect, but he made it look like it was.”
Danladi has five goals and two assists in his 18 matches with 10 starts this season, which various injuries have hindered at time. But with leading scorer Christian Ramirez (hamstring) out for the past three matches, Danladi has been able to play his natural striker position. The Loons are on a break until Sept. 9 when they face Philadelphia (8-12-7, eighth in the East) at TCF Bank Stadium, and Ramirez’s return is still to be determined.
“The next nine games for [Danladi] are going to be huge,” Heath said, adding he wasn’t sure about a possible Rookie of the Year nod for the forward yet. “He has the opportunity now to stake a claim. Christian looks like Christian. It’s going to be maybe another two to three weeks as well. So he has an opportunity.”
But Danladi, at least, did a lot Saturday to prove his growth so far this first season.
“He’s improving, and that’s the most important thing,” Heath said. “For sure, for any young player out of college, it’s a bit of a culture shock. You’re used to playing three months in a season. There’s not a lot of pressure on him. So for him to come and be the No. 1 pick, obviously he’s behind Christian because Christian started the season so well scoring goals. So now his time has come.
“I said to him, you have to build on this. But he has to remember what got him his opportunities tonight,” Heath said. “His hard work, his unselfish work off the ball, running in behind. If he does that, he will score goals.”