Minnesota United rookie midfielder Hassani Dotson moved from right back to left back during his first professional start in Wednesday’s friendly against Germany’s Hertha Berlin. Then he played the left back position when he made his first MLS start in Saturday’s 1-0 victory over Houston.
Now he could be headed back to that right side against defending MLS champion Atlanta, after Romain Metanire’s yellow card — received in the 90th minute against the Dynamo — suspended him for Wednesday’s game.
One gets the feeling Loons coach Adrian Heath is comfortable wherever — midfield, right back, left back — he plays the 2019 second-round draft pick.
“For his debut, playing in an unfamiliar position against whoever came down his side, I thought he was outstanding,” Heath said. “The kid did everything we asked of him. As we said after the game, if he, God willing, stays injury-free and listens and learns — which we don’t think he won’t — he has a great opportunity because the kid just has a feel for the game.”
Dotson demonstrated so Saturday. He marked Houston scorers Romell Quioto and Memo Rodriguez, among others, and headed balls out of the box and out of danger while he also controlled the ball during one lengthy push forward, setting up teammate Jan Gregus for a quality shot on which Gregus didn’t fully connect.
Dotson, 21, gives Heath the option to play him at multiple possessions. That also provides Heath with flexibility when veteran Eric Miller is out, as he was Saturday because of a quad injury, or in cases such as Metanire’s suspension.
“If that’s the plan, I’m OK with it,” Dotson said. “I’m ready for anything.”
Call veteran teammate Ethan Finlay impressed.
“I thought he was fantastic,” Finlay said. “Obviously some jitters there, but he made a couple moves getting forward in the attack, holding guys off. You saw how strong he is on Wednesday against those German guys [Hertha Berlin]. He’s always up for the fight. It was a tremendous debut for him. I’m really proud of him.”
Drafted in January out of Oregon State, Dotson credits such older teammates as Ozzie Alonso, Rasmus Schuller, Darwin Quintero and Vito Mannone, among many others, for helping encourage and calm him.
“Everyone had a moment with me, telling me, ‘Good luck, kill it, don’t think too much, play your game,’ ” Dotson said. “It really means a lot that they care about me.”
Dotson called himself a “little nervous” before the game.
“But it helped that I got to play with the team against Hertha,” he said.
United veteran Miguel Ibarra made him laugh before Saturday’s game by imitating a scene from the motion picture “Remember the Titans” in which two football linemen motivate themselves by shouting “Left side, strong side.”
Dotson recorded an Instagram selfie video with the two of them together on the field following Saturday’s victory.
“Something like that just makes it that much easier to relax and get ready for the game,” Dotson said. “Talking with my other friends, you don’t see this in every locker room.”
He played Saturday’s entire game without showing many nerves and without looking like a prospect drafted 31st overall.
“You don’t just look at the numbers because the draft goes off need as well,” Dotson said. “I just really felt I had something to prove. I’m just working hard.”
Hard work helps, but Heath also sees in the rookie something innate that he can’t teach Dotson.
“No matter where you play him, he gets a feel for the game,” Heath said. “You can’t give that to people. Either they have it or they haven’t.”