BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – It was almost six months in the making, but on their 11th attempt, Minnesota United FC finally claimed their first road win in MLS play.
Two goals from No. 1 overall SuperDraft selection Abu Danladi gave the Loons a 2-1 victory at the Chicago Fire on Saturday night. After the match, head coach Adrian Heath was quick to praise his 21-year-old Ghanaian striker, who bounced back after missing some golden opportunities in Minnesota’s 2-1 loss at Seattle last week to record his fourth and fifth goals of the season.
“I feel as though the players are starting to really enjoy each other and I’m pleased for Abu,” Heath told MLSsoccer.com. “Obviously last week he had a couple of really good opportunities to take us 2-0 up and missed them and people talk about that. But as I said to him, you’ve got to keep getting in the right spots and tonight I thought he was terrific.”
Heath was equally enthused about Minnesota finally getting their first road win, especially after they missed out on a valuable point at Seattle last Sunday after Clint Dempsey buried a penalty at the death. Saturday night’s three points at Toyota Park was enough to lift Minnesota above the Colorado Rapids and the LA Galaxy in the Western Conference standings and move them to 7-14-4 on the season.
“It’s always nice to get that monkey off your back,” Heath said. “People mention it every time we go away, but to come here and win is especially pleasing. We worked so hard last week and to concede the goal in the 94th minute, which we didn’t deserve. Tonight, at times, we rode our luck a little bit, but I always thought we looked dangerous on the counterattack. I’m pleased for the players because they’ve worked so hard of late and to get the reward of the three points is great.”
Danladi has had to be patient to earn an extended run in the side, but he marked his 10th start of the season and fourth in a row on Saturday with his most impressive performance yet. The UCLA product led the line with energy and purpose, was always an outlet on the counter and took both of his goals with precision and a ruthlessness that belied his tender years. And with 11-goal scorer and fellow striker Christian Ramirez out for another two to three weeks, according to Heath, Danladi will have a chance to impress further.
“He is improving and that’s the most important thing,” Heath said of Danladi. “The first year for any young player out of college, it’s a bit of a culture shock because they’re used to playing three months of the season. There’s not a lot of pressure on them. So for him to come as the No. 1 pick and obviously be behind Christian because Christian started the season so well, scoring goals, but now his time’s come. He’s got to build on this, he’s got to remember what’s got him his opportunities tonight, his hard work, his unselfish work off the ball, running in behind, and if he does that he will score goals.”
Heath left the final word for the tremendous Loons support that ventured south to Chicago in significant numbers.
“And with our traveling support, they were fantastic,” he said. “When you consider that we haven’t won a [road] game all season, for that many people to turn up on the road, to give us the support that they did, it was pleasing for them.”