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.