Soaring Back to ‘Sota: Loons’ first MLS draft pick Abu Danladi returns to MNUFC

The Minnesota United roster is one filled with some new faces in 2022, but one of the new additions is actually returning to where it all started.

Abu Danladi, the team’s first ever MLS draft pick in 2017, is back once again after picking the Loons as a free agent this offseason.

"It was a no brainer to come back here," Danladi told FOX 9 of his decision to return to the Minnesota United.

Abu played the last two seasons in Nashville in a career move he had no control over. The forward was selected by Nashville in the MLS expansion draft in 2019.

"It’s part of the game, I understand that," he said.

The change is one that came as a surprise, but one that also came with a silver lining after playing for a new team for two seasons.

"In some ways for me, it was very important," Danladi says of his time in Nashville. "If you keep doing the same thing over and over again, you get the same results. Leaving here and going there made me realize that."

Danladi hopes the return to Minnesota helps him return to his rookie season form. In 2017, he scored a career-high eight goals. 

"I want to try to score goals for the team, make assists for the team," Danladi said of his aspirations for 2022. "More importantly, try to be ready to help the team when they need me at any position Adrian (Heath) needs me to play."

"No secrets, I love him as a kid," MNUFC head coach Adrian Heath said of Danladi’s return. "He has an infectious smile and enthusiasm. He brings something every single day."

Abu is playing for much more than himself and his team this season. 

His brother, Sali, passed away in September. Abu’s season being motivated by his memory. One reflected in his Danladi’s new jersey number: 18.

"He was born on August 1st, and in Ghana the day comes before the month, so it’s 1-8," Danladi said. "It’s a tribute to him… (He’s on my heart) every day."

Abu is now ready to bring it every game to bring his team as far as possible. 

"My first three years here, I just felt like it was an ‘unfinished business’ kind of thing," Danladi said. "When I left, I felt like I could give more."

MNUFC start the season on the road against Philadelphia before returning to Allianz Field for the home opener on March 5 when the Loons host Danladi’s previous team Nashville.