Minnesota United forward Abu Danladi's two goals against the Chicago Fire this past weekend were his fourth and fifth of his rookie season. But they signaled even more of a breakthrough moment than his first.
"I mean, that was the first time I scored playing as a nine," Danladi said of playing in his natural striker position. "Most of the time I've scored, I played on the wings. A goal is a goal, but just position-wise, it's different."
Danladi said he maybe played on the wings twice for just a half of a match during his collegiate career at UCLA, but he's accepted be slotted in wherever United coach Adrian Heath has needed him.
Earlier in the season, the Loons lacked attacking threats anywhere on the pitch besides at No. 9, where team leading scorer Christian Ramirez dominated. But with Ramirez dealing with a hamstring injury in recent weeks, Danladi has been able to take up that spot.
"As I've said to him, and I've said to all the players, sometimes you have to play what's to the benefit of the group," Heath said. "At that particular time, we were left with not an awful lot of alternatives, but I don't think it'll do him any harm. Certainly improved his fitness. We all know he's a forward. That's where he's going to play. Eventually, his career is going to be as a center forward. But sometimes, needs are a must, and you have to think of the benefit of everybody rather than one individual."
Danladi, at least, has a pretty positive outlook no matter where he is playing and just tries to focus on enjoying the game, he said. As far as goals for the rest of the year, the 21-year-old said he just wants to score as much as he can and hopefully help the team to a win streak and maybe even a long-shot playoff bid.
What the No. 1 pick is not concerned about is the Rookie of the Year race.
"Actually, that's something I never do," Danladi said of measuring himself against other rookies, whom he said all have totally different situations. "It's just me focusing on this team and enjoying it. It's my first time as a pro. It's been really fun for me.
"I know a lot of rookies in the league don't get the opportunity to play, so this is just great, me getting an opportunity to play here," Danladi said. "So just make the best out of it."
Finlay connecting with fans
Winger Ethan Finlay has only been back in his native Minnesota for a few weeks, but he's already making a play for fan favorite.
Finlay came up with the idea to do a personal fan meet-and-greet now that he's settled at his new club. And starting at 6 p.m. Thursday at Surly Brewing, the first 48 United fans can drink a free can of the team's Rising North beer with the Loon.
The Duluth native started working on this last week, wanting a way to introduce himself to a new fan base after spending his career with former club the Columbus Crew. He said back when he signed a contract extension at Columbus in 2014, he did a similar outreach event.
"From the very beginning, this club's had great support. I remember seeing the crowds and watching the live press conference when [MLS commissioner Don] Garber was here to introduce the team," Finlay said. "So I've seen it from afar, and I just think it's a good way to jump into the community right away and show my appreciation."
Finlay added this is just phase one of his integration into the Minnesota scene. He's hoping to volunteer at hospitals and any youth soccer clinics as well.
Other notes: Midfielder Sam Cronin watched from the sidelines Thursday at the National Sports Center while recovering from his concussion. Midfielder Collin Martin also trained separately after tweaking what appeared to be a hamstring in training Wednesday. Forward Christian Ramirez, center-back Brent Kallman and defender Thomas de Villardi also continued to train separately.