Whenever Abu Danladi comes on the pitch, he always seems to ignite Minnesota United FC.
And that verve might make an appearance earlier than usual in United’s next match.
The rookie has played in the past seven matches for the Loons since his debut in the 2-2 draw at Colorado on March 18. Playing as a second-half sub, he has registered five shots, with two on goal, in his 140 minutes as a professional.
In the 1-0 loss to the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium, Danladi came on for a flat Johan Venegas in the 64th minute and awakened not only United’s dwindling attack but also the announced 17,605 fans in attendance.
While the forward hasn’t recorded a point, he has had several near-misses while creating chances for himself and others. And with the team experiencing a scoring lull — only three goals in the past four matches, after netting 10 in the first five — next Sunday’s match against Sporting Kansas City at TCF Bank Stadium looks like a prime opportunity for the No. 1 draft pick to crack the lineup.
“He came in with a lot of hype, and it’s taken us three or four weeks to get him where I think is match fit,” Loons coach Adrian Heath said. “And his training has been absolutely superb the last two or three weeks, and he gave us what I thought he would [Saturday]. He gave us some energy and some life. And I think he sparked his teammates. He sparked the crowd. It was a good shift for him. He’s put himself very firmly in a chance for starting next week.”
Danladi, a UCLA product, dealt with a lingering back injury throughout preseason and the first few weeks of the regular season. But the Ghana native has said he has never been as fit as he is now. And he has become more comfortable with the team; Heath has called him one of the jokers on the squad.
That jovial attitude has kept Danladi from stressing about his playing time. And Heath has been mentioning for weeks how Danladi is pushing for a starting spot.
“If Adrian makes a first 11, and I’m not in that, it’s always he knows what’s right,” Danladi said. “He’s doing what’s best for the team. So I’m always, like, on the bench, getting ready to come in and being prepared mentally. So start or no start, I’m always ready to help.”
Forward Christian Ramirez, who has been paired with Danladi when the rookie has played, said the 21-year-old’s breakthrough is on its way.
“I told Abu he’s super easy to play with. I enjoy playing with him because he reads my movement really well and runs off me really well,” Ramirez said. “So the more and more time he gets, the more production he’s going to find. The kid works extremely hard, so he’s going to get rewarded for it.”