Minnesota United FC midfielder Hassani Dotson is enjoying a good spell of form, finally certifying himself as a first-team regular under Adrian Heath. Since joining the Loons in 2018, Dotson has been a regular off the bench but has never managed to break into the starting XI — until now.
The versatile 23-year-old has played an “x-factor” role for the Loons, featuring as a defender, midfielder, and winger/attacker for the club. In the past, Heath has explained that he can excel in most places on the pitch because of his athleticism and motivation to improve.
This past spring, the Washington native was selected to play with the U-23 Men’s national team for Tokyo 2020 Olympic qualifying, where then-head coach Jason Kreis gave rave reviews about Dotson after he scored two goals off the bench in a dominating 4-0 win over the Dominican Republic.
“For me, Hassani is a player that’s coming into his own,” he said. “He showed us in January how hungry he was and how he was capable of so many different things as a central midfield player. He showed up to this camp probably fitter than everybody else. He’s worked extremely hard, he’s had assists and goals in almost every single training session.
“So it’s really nice to see a player who is coming, I think, in a really good moment and is hungry to help lead this team and push this team forward. Couldn’t be more pleased for the kid.”
Now, for his club, the midfielder has found himself slotted alongside former USMNT international, Wil Trapp, and the duo is creating something special in the middle of the pitch for the Loons.
“I think we have a great relationship on the field, and he’s been a really good leader for a lot of the guys,” Dotson said. “And for me, I think it’s exciting to try to attain one of my goals that I set for myself and be a regular starter, but I know I still have a lot of stuff I want to improve.”
Dotson mentioned that both he and the club have to take these opportunities “moment by moment” to ensure they don’t miss any opportunities.
Now, amid a 21-point-streak over 10 matches, the Loons and Dotson face a difficult week that has three matches over eight days. Speaking to Dotson Tuesday afternoon at the club’s training facility, he mentioned how they all realize they’re going to feel it in their legs, bodies, and especially their minds.
In cases like this, Dotson told me he likes to do what he can to take things like this off the mind of his teammates — whether that’s on or off the pitch.
“I think a lot of the guys have vibrant personalities, and so like when it comes to hyping guys up, that’s my thing,” Dotson said. “From tennis shoes to t-shirts or anything like that, I just try to make light of that and make sure everyone is in a good mood and has a smile on their face and stuff. I wanna make sure everyone’s having fun.”
Dotson mentioned that after Chase Gasper scored the opening goal in their eventual 2-1 comeback win over the weekend, that he hyped him up at that moment. Off the pitch? Gasper received even more praise, but for a different reason.
“So like I said, I like hyping people up and Chase just got a new car, so I definitely took like a video of it, hyped him up, and sent it to a bunch of the guys,” Dotson said. “Like it’s all jokes and fun and everyone gets a good laugh out of it and the guys even do it back.”
In the long run, though, Dotson seems to want to ensure that those around him in the squad are having fun, staying healthy, and taking care of themselves mentally at the same time.
“I mean, yeah, I’m the hype man, but anybody can be! Anybody on the squad can hype someone else up. I think everyone splits the spirit (hype-man-role) and wants the best for each other, so if anyone’s, like, feeling down or something, everyone tries to pick that person up and I think it’s now pretty important that you have a lot of support coming from a bunch of different guys.”
Dotson seems to be relishing his role both on the pitch and off the pitch, as the Loons midfield destroyer and as the team’s certified hype man.