BLAINE, Minn. — To exceed collective expectations the way Minnesota United has so far during a breakout 2019 season, it helps to get a couple individual performances that few saw coming.
In 2019 MLS SuperDraft selections Hassani Dotson and Chase Gasper, the Loons have received just that, during a year when they've reached their first U.S. Open Cup Final and climbed to third in the Western Conference.
While high-profile internationals Jan Gregus and Darwin Quintero have been crucial, as have MLS veterans Ozzie Alonso and Ike Opara, the likes of Dotson and Gasper — as well as second-year college draftee, striker Mason Toye — are as responsible as anyone for helping the Loons reach another level.
“I think it shows, what might be a bit against the grain, is that there is still value in the college game, we’ve got players who we think will contribute many years down the road for us,” coach Adrian Heath said. “We have the faith in them, and we’ve got a real core of good young players to deal with.”
Gasper was selected 15th overall by the Loon this January, with Heath declaring that Gasper was “the most MLS ready defender” after his selection. His college teammate at Maryland, MNUFC goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair, was selected 7th overall, with both players were coming off a national championship title.
Gasper has started 10 matches for the Loons while securing the starting left fullback position midway through the season.
“He has a great left foot, his 1-on-1 defending against speedy wingers has been good, and you can see his confidence grow from game to game as he's starting to take more risks," said FOX MLS analyst Stu Holden. "Consistency is key for a player his age and now that he seems to be past the hamstring problems from early in the year, he's getting an important run of games. If he can continue to contribute in a big way until the end of the season, coaches at USMNT level will have a close eye on him. “
Dotson, a natural midfielder, was selected 31st overall as a second-round pick out of Oregon State. Since his arrival, his versatility has led to to his selection both a fullback, a central midfielder and a defensive midfielder for Minnesota.
Dotson has started 12 league matches for the Loons. He recently earned the honor of being called up to the U-23 Men’s national team for the United States.
“Dotson is versatile, capable of playing 2 or 3 positions at a high level. And when veteran Ozzie Alonso is telling coaches after 2 or 3 trainings into the season that he should play, that says it all,” said ESPN MLS analyst Taylor Twellman. “Credit to MNUFC for getting the most out of these guys and I think both could have a huge say in their playoff hopes.”
Both rookies are in contention for rookie of the year honors after an outstanding summer, when they helped lead the Loons to an eleven-match unbeaten streak in all competitions through the month of July into early August.
“They’ve held their position down, Chase has had it a bit easier since he’s got less competition — the one thing Hassani’s proved is when he’s had his opportunities, he’s been excellent, Heath said. “I’ve been really pleased with them.”