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Minnesota United keeping faith in oft-injured Abu Danladi

Minnesota United forward Abu Danladi (99) protects the ball from LA Galaxy defender Jorgen Skjelvik (16) during an April 2019 game at Allianz Field in St. Paul. Brace Hemmelgarn / USA TODAY Sports

BLAINE, Minn. -- Minnesota United fans haven’t seen enough of Abu Danladi. Again.

Since scoring eight goals in 27 games and finishing runner-up for MLS rookie of the year in 2017, the Loons' first draft pick , No. 1 overall, has been held back by injuries. After scoring one goal per 174 minutes as a rookie, he scored one per 483 minutes a year ago.

Now he's at one goal in 277 so far this season.

Hamstring pulls were a concern that followed Danladi from UCLA, and those issues flared up at least four times last season. He went to Barcelona in the offseason to meet with specialists, but this season an ankle injury sidelined him for the first two games, and a quadriceps injury kept him out of Saturday’s 1-1 draw with the Seattle Sounders.

In between, Danladi had three starts and four substitute appearances, and he has yet to play a full 90 minutes.

Despite walking off Wednesday’s training session in Blaine, Danladi was back on the field Thursday, and United coach Adrian Heath said Danladi will travel and be available to play Saturday night, May 11, against the Chicago Fire in Bridgeview, Ill.

“Abu’s role will depend on him,” Heath said Thursday. “If he’s fit and healthy, I would be very surprised if he doesn’t force his way into the team because I have a lot of faith in him.”

Heath points to Danladi’s rookie production as a source of his optimism, while the quad injury from last Friday is a source of his frustration.

“He misses a game through something really innocuous in training, and it’s cost him another four days training,” Heath said. “… He will score goals at this level; he’s just got to maintain it. We are working hard with him, and he’s working hard at it. Nobody is more disappointed than him not to be available for selection last week, but it’s been too much of an occurrence for us — and for him, more importantly.”