The average temperature in Ghana is in the 70s and 80s.
The average temperature in Southern California is in the 60s.
So when Abu Danladi emigrated from his native Ghana to California in 2011, he thought it was “freezing” in the Golden State.
That word will take on a whole new meaning for the No. 1 pick in Friday’s Major League Soccer SuperDraft, as Minnesota United FC selected the former UCLA player. He now will have to move once again, this time to a state that is essentially tundra for half the year.
The weather, however, doesn’t faze the 21-year-old in the slightest.
“I’m going to go there a month or two, and I’m going to adjust to it,” he said. “It wasn’t a problem for me at all.”
The club’s newest and youngest addition is a Generation Adidas forward, meaning he won’t count toward United’s salary budget, coming off three seasons at UCLA, including scoring seven goals in 11 matches last season despite being hindered by injuries. He will join forwards Christian Ramirez and Femi Hollinger-Janzen on United’s roster.
While coach Adrian Heath said Thursday he was looking for an immediate contributor, Danladi said he is just keen to start preseason and work on improving under Heath.
“I knew if I had the opportunity to play for Adrian, it would be a dream come true,” Danladi said. adding he was surprised to be the top pick. “And when my name was called, I was so happy. I get to learn so much from him as a coach and being in Minnesota, playing in front of the fans and helping the team get to do the best that we can.”
And Danladi said he hopes that involves winning an MLS Cup.
Danladi called himself “really technical with the ball” and a striker with good vision of the pitch.
His former UCLA coach Jorge Salcedo said Danladi is very fast, comfortable with both feet, and able to make a shot or cross even in tight spaces.
“The best way, with one word, to describe Abu is dynamic,” Salcedo said. “He’s someone that I think is going to add a great attacking element to Minnesota United.”
Bloomington native Jackson Yueill, who went sixth in the draft to San Jose Earthquakes, was Danladi’s teammate at UCLA, and Danladi said he had asked Yueill about Minnesota before and heard how much Yueill loved living there.
“I flew into Minneapolis once,” Danladi said Friday of his limited Minnesota experience.
“So tonight, that’s all I’m going to be doing. Like eight hours straight, going to be searching about Minnesota. And I’m really excited to sit in front of my computer, calling people who actually know Minnesota and stuff.”
A keeper at last
The Loons also nabbed a 22-year-old goalkeeper, Wake Forest’s Alec Ferrell, with the first pick in the second round, filling the one blank position space on their roster.
The 6-4, 190-pound Ohio native amassed a 40-13-10 record with 22 shutouts, a .797 save percentage and a 0.89 goals-against average in his college career.
Like Danladi, he also endured injuries this past season and missed SuperDraft festivities because of them.
After trading their third pick in the second round to the Philadelphia Union for $50,000 in 2018 general allocation money and the 20th pick in the round, United took defender Thomas de Villardi with it.
The Frenchman played his first two collegiate seasons at Duquesne before transferring to Delaware, where he started and played all but one game this past season.
The draft’s final two rounds take place Tuesday via conference call. United won’t pick again until the top of the fourth round.
Summing up, Heath said in a statement: “I think we got the best player in the draft — certainly the one with the most upside — got the best goalkeeper in the draft, and we’ve taken somebody that we were worried was going to get taken before because it’s someone Amos [Magee, director of player personnel] has seen and likes a lot.
“We’re really pleased with what we’ve done today. It’s another step toward Jan. 23 when we start preseason.”