Many factors contributed to Minnesota United’s rise to its first playoff berth. One of those was the excellent play of rookie midfielder/fullback Hassani Dotson.
The 31st overall pick in last years draft started 15 games for the Loons and he came on in nine more as a substitute. He provided four goals, but none were bigger than the one he scored in Minnesota’s playoff-clinching performance against Sporting Kansas City on September 25. Dotson came on as a sub in the 61st minute and ended up scoring in the 90th minute to seal Minnesota’s place in the playoffs.
One of Dotson’s more admirable qualities on the pitch is his versatility. The Oregon State product played significant minutes in all three levels of midfield as well as both full back positions in 2019. He’s capable of using his pace to help a team going forward from both central and wide positions while being excellent at tracking back defensively and breaking up opposing runs.
All this makes him worthy of being voted SBI’s MLS Rookie of the Year Award for 2019. Here is a look at the rest of the top rookies, as chosen by SBI’s editorial staff:
2. Andre Shinyashiki
Andre Shinyashiki announced himself with authority in Colorado’s opening match of the season. The Brazilian-born striker came on as a substitute in a blizzard and scored a stoppage-time equalizer against the Portland Timbers. He went on to score seven goals in 31 total appearances throughout 2019. Shinyashiki is a versatile attacker capable of leading a line as well as playing support along the wing or as a playmaker through the middle with excellent ball skills. The Rapids will look forward to having him for years to come.
3. Brenden Aaronson
Homegrown midfielder Brenden Aaronson wasted no time becoming a central part of the Philadelphia Union’s success in 2019. The 18-year-old started 25 games in his first professional season and he scored his first of three goals in his MLS debut on the road against Atlanta United. He scored twice more throughout the season and impressed enough in the first half to earn a spot on the MLS Homegrown Team.
4. Chase Gasper
Gasper was a bit of a late addition to Minnesota United’s regular starting eleven in 2019. The 15th overall pick in the 2019 draft, he made his debut on June 9, right before the Concacaf Gold Cup break, and became a regular starter right afterwards. Gasper developed a reputation as a tough, physical left back throughout the season. He started 14 games for the Loons and impressed with his tackling and crossing ability. He was never one to shy away from a challenge, even at the cost of a yellow card. He picked up six cautions in 15 total games, as well as one sending off.
5. Benji Michel
Not much went right for Orlando City this year, but the play of homegrown attacker Benji Michel was certainly on bright spot. The 21-year-old showed a real nose for goal throughout limited playing time in 2019. He scored five times in MLS play, good for fourth on the team, despite only picking up 944 total minutes of action. That pace of scoring could do wonders for an Orlando City team in real need of goal scoring as they look to finally put a playoff caliber team together in the coming seasons.