Abu Danladi has spent the last few years trying to carve out a professional soccer career. After getting drafted No. 1 overall by MLS club Minnesota United in 2017, Danladi has spent the last year bouncing around a bit before getting back to the MLS with Nashville SC this year.
Danladi appears to have regained his form, scoring twice in seven starts for Nashville this season after getting selected in the MLS expansion draft.
All this, however, is just icing on the cake for Danladi. But, why would readers in Santa Barbara County have any interest in this MLS journeyman?
Well, for starters, Danladi once called the area his home. Danladi was born and raised in Ghana and left his family to come to the Central Coast in 2011 and play soccer at the Dunn School in Los Olivos.
“Life in Ghana was tough,” Danladi said in 2014 after signing to play for UCLA. “I come from an alright family, sometimes it was hard. Me leaving and going to the academy was an opportunity to help the family. One less person to feed. I made sure I made the best out of it.
“I miss my family, but I know the reason why I’m here and I really dedicated my life to do that, so that’s what I’m going to do."
Danladi had a historic career at Dunn, becoming one of the county's greatest soccer players with the Earwigs. A month after signing with UCLA in 2014, Danladi was named the National Gatorade Player of the Year, the highest honor available to a high school soccer player in the country. He scored 25 goals and had 15 asissts during his senior season at Dunn.
“I never dreamt this day would ever come,” Danladi said in March of 2014 after being named the Gatorade National Player of the Year.
“It’s been great (at Dunn),” Dunladi said after signing with UCLA. “I thought coming here was a huge transition, not knowing anybody. I thought it was going to be a really, really hard transition, but coming here, to be honest, it’s a really great community to be in. They accept you, they respect you, they show you how to be a better person, they give you all the tools you need to be a better person. I've learned so much.”
At UCLA, Danladi immediately made an impact as a forward for the Bruins, landing Top Drawer Soccer's Freshman of the Year honor.
Danladi was selected with the first overall pick by the expansion Major League Soccer franchise Minnesota United in Friday's SuperDraft in January of 2017. He scored eight times in his first season with Minnesota, which was an expansion club in 2017. But he then scored only three goals combined in the 2018 and 2019 seasons. He spent one game on loan with USL League One club Madison before Nashville SC selected him in the expansion draft earlier this year.
Danladi has scored twice in seven starts with Nashville, which has advanced to the opening round of the MLS playoffs. Nashville, 8-7-8 on the season, is set to play in a play-in game Nov. 20 against Inter Miami FC.
GBB: Player of the Decade Final Round
Kaitlyn Flowers vs. Tatiana Dunlap
Flowers made it to the final round without too much drama. Dunlap, on the other hand, had to grind out a win over the top remaining seed.
Dunlap narrowly fended off Ashlyn Herlihy of Arroyo Grande in the semifinals. It was a close fight, but Dunlap pulled away late to score the victory, 1,089 to 876.
On the other side of the bracket, Flowers cruised past Heather Madrigal, who played at both St. Joseph High and Arroyo Grande with Flowers and Dunlap, in the semifinals. Flowers voters have consistently led the round-by-round voting.
In this round, Flowers received 1,443 votes, edging Madrigal, who tallied 1,023 votes as of 4 p.m. Tuesday.
Voting ran from Wednesday, Oct. 28 to closing at 4 p.m. Tuesday.
In all, 4,431 votes were cast in the semifinal round. There were 3,044 votes cast in the quarterfinals and 4,500 votes in the opening round, meaning readers have cast about 12,000 total votes in this contest.
Flowers led the opening round with 446 total votes. She then had 520 in the quarterfinals before taking in over 1,400 votes in the semifinals. Dunlap had 422 votes in the opening round, then 351 votes in the quarterfinals before hauling in 1,089 votes in the semifinals.
Flowers defeated Lompoc grad Danielle Morgan 446-187 in the first round and Cabrillo High grad Erin Jenkins 520-88 in the quarterfinals before defeating Madrigal in the semifinals. Dunlap beat Santa Ynez grad Hailey King in the first round 422-76 and Righetti grad Mariah Cooks 351-260 in the quarterfinals.
Dunlap won a CIF state title in her sophomore season with the Knights. Flowers was a freshman that year and, as fate would have it, filled in for an injured Dunlap in the state title game, giving the Knights valuable defense and rebounding in their win over Bishop O'Dowd.
In Dunlap's three seasons at St. Joseph, she scored over 1,300 points and the 5-foot-8 guard averaged 23.7 points, 3.0 assists, 9.2 rebounds and 2.6 steals per game as a senior.
Dunlap earned one All-Area MVP award, during her senior season. For her career, Dunlap averaged 15.1 points over 87 games with the Knights. As a junior in 2011-12, Dunlap averaged a double-double for the season, with 15.3 points and 10.3 rebounds per game, while also dishing out 3.0 assists and swiping 2.4 steals per game.
A 2014 St. Joseph graduate, Flowers eventually scored over 1,400 points during her Knight career. As a senior in the 2013-14 season, she averaged 17.9 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 4.8 steals per game.
As a junior, Flowers averaged 18.1 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 4.7 steals. As a sophomore, she scored 18 points a game, adding 4.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 4.4 steals per game. She finished her St. Joseph career with 1,448 total points, 503 total rebounds, 326 assists and 391 steals in 110 games. She averaged 18 points a game over the 75 games she played in her sophomore, junior and senior seasons.
Flowers also averaged nearly five steals a game in that span.
Readers have cast votes on the Santa Maria Times' three websites, santamariatimes.com; lompocrecord.com and syvnews.com. The voting for the final round is now live on those three websites and will close on Tuesday, Nov. 10 at 4 p.m. The Times polled current and former coaches to develop its list of nominees for Player of the Decade.
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