Hassani Dotson may have been a rookie for Minnesota United in 2019, but that didn’t stop him from having a breakout season for the Western Conference club. Now with valuable experience under his belt, the Washington native is seeking further success with the Loons in his second MLS season.
Dotson was the No. 31 overall selection in the 2019 MLS SuperDraft by Adrian Heath’s side and eventually rattled off 24 league appearances in his debut season. The 22-year-old joined the likes of forward Mason Toye and left back Chase Gasper in the Loons’ squad and is now ready to retain his starting role in 2020.
“Going into last season I didn’t expect to play as much as I did being a rookie and to have the role that I had,” Dotson told SBI. “After reviewing much of the minutes I played in 2019 I was still disappointed in a few areas, which is good and bad. I’m looking to try to get better everyday, whether that’s staying late and working on things, or getting tips from the older players. I want to make sure that I am ready for anything that happens this season.”
“Last season was a step in the positive direction, but we were still disappointed for not capitalizing in the Open Cup Final and making it further in the playoffs,” Dotson said. “The main thing for the young guys including myself was to get experience which we did last season. We were so close to coming back against the Galaxy and all of what we are doing in preseason is to make sure we don’t fall short this season.”
In 24 appearances and just over 1,400 minutes of first team action, Dotson scored four goals for the Loons, helping them to their first-ever MLS Cup Playoff berth and U.S. Open Cup Finals appearance. Despite the Loons not celebrating any trophies in 2019, it was a major step in the right direction after a struggling inaugural season in 2018.
The club increased their season total by 17 points in 2019, posting a 10-1-6 record at Allianz Field and earning wins over LAFC, New York Red Bulls, and Real Salt Lake along the way. Dotson continued to be a factor for the Loons, playing different roles in midfield alongside Osvaldo Alonso and Jan Gregus. Now he’s ready for any additional pressure put on him after putting in a positive rookie season.
“I think that the growing pressure is to be expected after what I was able to achieve last season,” Dotson said. “For me it’s all about getting better and I want that to translate to the field each and every week. If I focus too much on what people say outside of the locker room, then it could hurt my performance so I just have to make sure I am playing at a high level each and every week.”
For any team to have a trio of young players making an impact is a testament to the coaching staff for trusting them immediately. Toye, Dotson, and Gasper made the most of their opportunities and it saw them run away with 59 combined appearances between them. Dotson led the trio with 24 league appearances and is excited to improve even more with his teammates this season.
“I think the biggest thing for young players to play is just being an honest worker,” Dotson said. “For players like myself, Mason [Toye] and Chase [Gasper], I think it’s pretty cool we have started this journey all together with playing huge roles in the team. It definitely gives you confidence as a young player knowing that your hard work isn’t going unnoticed by the manager and coaching staff.”
After a strong MLS season, Dotson earned his first-ever call up to the U.S. Under-23 Men’s National Team, led by former MLS head coach Jason Kreis. Alongside Toye, Dotson was able to cross off another goal on his dream 2019 season, getting to work with numerous other young talents in North America and abroad. The opportunity to represent the U.S. with his club teammate made it that much special for both players.
“The feeling to represent your country at any level is just amazing, I never felt anything like that before,” Dotson said. “It was always a dream of mine to play for the U.S. National Team and to finally get that first call-in to any age group was fun. I’d love to be called in for the Olympic Team, but right now just focusing on Minnesota United and be in the starting lineup on opening day.”
“It was great to work with Hassani more and more as the season went on in 2020 and we both got rewarded with call-ups to the U.S. U-23 Men’s National Team,” Toye told SBI. “Having a guy go through the steps with you is always helpful and we got closer as the season went on. We also roomed together at U.S. camp so that was good. It was a really good experience for us and he’s definitely coming into his own as a professional.”
Minnesota United’s regular season begins on March 1st at the Portland Timbers, a team that finished four points behind the Loons in last year’s standings. Now with a year under his belt, Dotson is aiming to keep progressing as a player and continue being a leader for the new rookies coming into the fold in St. Paul.
“I’m trying to be there for the rookies and be there when they need it, just like the veterans were for me last year” Dotson said. “I try to help them get better and not put too much pressure on them. I know how it can be since that was me last season. We want everyone here to be happy and smiling and enjoying what we’re doing so I try to help in those aspects as well.”