Hassani Dotson Rookie of the Year
© Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Hassani Dotson: Rookie of the Year

With a squad’s top players heading out of the team for multiple games, international breaks can cause headaches for head coaches. But they can also provide opportunities for young players to step up and claim starting roles. In the case of Hassani Dotson, the international break this summer came at the perfect time.

During preseason, the central midfielder impressed his teammates and coaches with his work ethic, leading to the Oregon State University product becoming the first second-round draft pick ever signed by Minnesota United. From there, Dotson began accumulating MLS minutes before his fellow 2019 SuperDraft picks when he came on in stoppage time in the Loons’ season opener against Vancouver. He would have to wait until the summer international break to get regular time in the starting XI — even if it wasn’t in his natural position.

Dotson’s first MLS start came against Houston in May as a left back, where he supported a Minnesota United defense to its fifth clean sheet of the season. Since then, Dotson has made the starting Xl in MLS 13 times and 17 in all competitions, in four different positions – left back (4), right back (5), right wingback (1) and central midfield (7). Along the way, he notched three goals — all long-range rockets — with two coming when he was playing as a fullback.

“The great thing is, we know that we’ve got somebody that can step in and play like he has done,” said Head Coach Adrian Heath. “It remains to be seen where his ultimate position will be. As he’s proved, he can play multiple positions. Most squads love a good utility player, and that’s what he is going to turn out to be. But the kid had a great start to his MLS career.”

The versatility and maturity the 22-year-old has displayed in his first year of professional soccer has set the bar for rookies in 2019. He has successfully filled in as a starting right back for 2019 All-Star Romain Metanire while the French-Malagasy defender was with the Malagasy National Team, kept the central midfield locked down alongside Jan Gregus in place of veteran Osvaldo Alonso, and started in six games during the club’s 11-game unbeaten streak. Dotson’s success has garnered attention from the U.S. Men’s National Team, with Head Coach Jason Kreis calling him up to join the U23s with fellow Loon Mason Toye.

As we look ahead to 2020, Dotson has become the type of player that instills confidence in Heath whenever he’s on the pitch to get the job done. If he continues the form from his debut year, he will definitely give Loons fans plenty to cheer for next season.