Player: Abu Danladi
Abu Danladi is as elusive to Major League Soccer as he is to Pac-12 defenders. The UCLA forward was expected to be a top pick in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft, but elected to decline the league’s Generation adidas offer and remain in college.
Those same expectations remain this year as most believe that he’ll finally agree to a deal after his Junior season and enter the draft.
Danladi is a pacey forward who can play all across the front line from winger to pure striker. He’s known for his dribbling and ability to take defenders on 1-vs-1.
A former Gatorade National Player of the Year (2013-14), Danladi has consistently been one of the best players at the college level for the last three years. He was honored with a spot on the Top Freshman team despite missing 12 games due to injury. He was also named Freshman of the Year by Top Drawer Soccer.
The forward followed up his promising first year by putting up a 6 Goal/10 Assist season in his Sophomore season. That earned him a selection to the All-Pac-12 First Team.
This season he only played in 11 games while battling through injuries, but set a career-high with seven goals while adding two assists.
Danladi has experience playing against professionals too. In 2015, he suited up for the Ventura County Fusion against the LA Galaxy in the second round of the U.S. Open Cup and scored a goal. He’s likely the most MLS-ready attacking player in the draft with three years of college soccer under his belt.
What They’re Saying
Ives says he’s still a much-coveted player despite his injury history in college:
A top Generation adidas target for the past three years, Danladi is coming off an injury-hit season but remains a highly-coveted talent. His speed, ability to take on defenders, and finishing make him an enticing prospect who could be the first player off the board on draft day.
TDS’ Will Parchman agrees and goes even further to say he could be a true star in MLS if healthy:
Danladi is an interesting case. He’s been injury prone throughout his three years in college soccer, which could ward off interested parties when it comes to signing on the dotted line. In line with those concerns, he’s also not the most physical player up top, which again could play out negatively on draft boards. But Danladi remains the single most talented player in college soccer, and that promise should carry through to a GA contract. If the mega-talented forward can stay healthy, he’ll be an MLS great.
It’s important to note that Danladi still isn’t guaranteed to be in the draft as he could again refuse to sign a Generation adidas contract and return to UCLA for his Senior season. However, assuming he does enter, he should be a lock to be a Top 5 pick.
As we discussed with fellow forward draft prospect Jeremy Ebobisse, both Minnesota United and Atlanta United don’t have a clear path to immediate playing time at the striker position. Danladi is a little more versatile with the ability to play as a winger. That could make him more attractive to both teams.
Ebobisse seems to be the hot prospect on everyone’s tongue as many expect him to be the top overall pick. However, Danladi’s upside is immense. If Atlanta United feel comfortable that they’ll have a decent defensive option available at the No. 8 spot, picking Danladi at No. 2 makes sense.
Currently, Jacob Peterson and 16-year-old Andrew Carleton are Atlanta’s only two options on the left wing. Danladi could easily slot in there and learn from a veteran like Peterson and give the club more time to let Carleton develop.
If Danladi falls past the top two spots, it’s hard to see Chicago (No. 3) and Houston (No. 4) passing on such a promising attacking talent that could have an immediate impact.
Could we be talking about Atlanta United’s first ever draft pick? If he decides to commit his future to MLS, there’s a decent chance.