Adaptable on the field from midfield to the backline, Minnesota United's Hassani Dotson is proving himself versatile off it as well.
Turning 25 last month, he is a husband, new father and dedicated pro in his fourth season rehabilitating an ACL torn in late April.
His team and teammates head to Portland for Saturday's game without him until next season after he spent the first three months of his rehab back home in Oregon. There he could both heal and watch daughter Gia, born in late January, grow day by day.
Marriage, fatherhood and a season's setback has left him a different man.
"I can't describe the change — it's change for the good," Dotson said. "They always say you can't be ready for parenthood, but she's a pretty easy baby to deal with so far, from what I've been told. She's starting to rock back and forth. Crawling is coming. She's starting to babble a lot more, and you're starting to see her personality. She has two little teeth coming in, so that's pretty cute."
Loons management allowed him to rehab those first three months back home with his daughter, nicknamed "Gi-Gi", his wife Petra and live-in in-laws before he moved mother and daughter to be with him in Minnesota "for good" in late July.
"That meant a lot, especially in a difficult time, that I could go back and be with my daughter and watch her first everythings, every day," Dotson said.
A former second-round draft pick from Oregon State, Dotson in June 2021 signed a three-year contract with one-year club option that started this season. He defines being in Minnesota for good as "offseason, full winter, everything."
Dotson tore his knee ligament with no one nearby on the training field in Blaine late in a session the day before a game against Chicago.
"We were doing a drill we typically do before a game, and I guess I just planted wrong and got stuck in the turf," Dotson said. "And yep, ACL gone."
The road back for such an injury is long, even for a patient person, which Dotson said he tries to be.
"It has been real difficult the last month because I'm feeling a lot better, but you have to slowly progress so you don't take too many steps backward. It has been difficult, but I think I'm doing well mentally, physically, spiritually, all that."
Dotson has consulted former Loons teammate Ethan Finlay and Timbers midfielder Eryk Williamson for advice. Both have recovered from surgery to repair an ACL.
He has jogged up to 95% of his body weight on an anti-gravity treadmill but hasn't yet begun field work other than some single-leg balancing and stationary headers.
"He's doing well," Loons coach Adrian Heath said. "I think you'll start to see him running around on the grass soon, but he'll not be in consideration at all until next season."
Dotson said he is aimed to be recovered by preseason training come January.
"I'm just taking it a day at a time," Dotson said. "I couldn't be more blessed to have our little daughter here and focus on rehab one day at a time, seeing where that takes me."
Dotson said he intends to "ramp up" his rehab in the next week by adding plyometrics and some jumping.
"Once I can fully start jogging on the field with no swelling the day after, I can really start getting after it," he said.