When starting right back Romain Metanire was the only one of four Minnesota United players not cleared back from FIFA international play for last Sunday's first-round playoff game, versatile midfielder Hassani Dotson stepped forth in his place.
With Metanire unavailable, Loons coach Adrian Heath called upon a player he has used just about everywhere in an emergency, including right back last season, and was pleased.
Particularly considering Dotson was back from a nasty sprained ankle suffered on Oct. 18 that Heath thought might sideline Dotson the rest of the season.
"Considering it's not his primary position, he stepped in last year and did excellent," Heath said. "And I thought he has done really, really well again. I always say this about Hassani: He has got a really good feel for the game and no matter where we could play him, I always feel as though he will do a really, really good job. Some of his defending was outstanding at times. Some of his covering position on the center back was outstanding.
"So he can be really pleased with the work he has done."
Did you know?
The Loons' club-record unbeaten streak reached nine games (5-0-4) with Sunday's first-round victory.
Even if starting central midfielder Jan Gregus didn't know it.
"It means a lot," Gregus said as the Loons prepare for Wednesday's playoff game at Sporting Kansas City. "To be honest, I didn't even know it was the biggest streak in the team's history. The team has quality and the year was crazy. We've had so many injuries and everything around the COVID. So we're just glad that we keep working hard and this is the fruit we're getting right now."
Veteran defender Michael Boxall arrived in Minnesota at midseason 2017 and has seen the franchise rise to two consecutive playoff appearances.
"You've seen the club grow and evolve so much, it's really hard to compare, particularly with all the off-the-field stuff," he said. "You look at the training ground when I arrived, that's improved like tenfold. The stadium we were playing in and that we are playing in now, it's just a little bit better. It's really difficult to compare the two and obviously our expectations and goals we were last year and even more this year have definitely grown from where we were my first two seasons with the club."
Working his way back
Loons captain Ozzie Alonso returned from injury in the 80th minute Sunday and has had a second week of training this week.
"We're pleased to get him back because we know what he gives us," Heath said. "Not only the ability but the leadership piece. He's gradually, incrementally upped his work. He'll get some proper work into him and see where we are with him because certainly somebody with experience would be a huge help for us."