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SSFC Spotlight: Griffin Dorsey turning a corner in Houston

The former U.S. youth international is growing into an attacking fullback.

MLS: US Open Cup Final-Houston Dynamo FC at Inter Miami CF Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Despite entering the professional ranks with a high level of potential, some players fail to immediately adjust or receive adequate time on the field to support development. This can result in a previously heralded talent reemerging a few years down the road, typically at a different club. Entering Major League Soccer following a prolific youth and collegiate career, Griffin Dorsey may be finally be hitting his stride. The 24-year-old fullback scored a crucial goal as the Houston Dynamo secured the Open Cup, continuing a strong season for the former U.S. youth international.

Born in Evergreen, Colorado, Dorsey played with Evergreen High School and Colorado Rush SC – earning First-Team All-State as a freshman and Development Academy Central Conference Player of the Year, respectively – before matriculating to the prestigious Indiana University men’s soccer program as a four-star recruit. In his first year with the Hoosiers, he started all 23 matches, contributed three goals and six assists, and was named Second-Team All-Big Ten and to multiple national All-Freshman teams as the Hoosiers reached the final of the College Cup. The next season featured further production and accolades, with five goals and five assists leading to First-Team All-Big Ten and All-America honors. His summers involved competing with the Colorado Rapids U-23 team in the USL Premier Development League.

After two years with Indiana, Dorsey departed the collegiate level and was signed to a Generation Adidas contract by MLS – Toronto FC selected him with the sixth overall pick in the 2019 SuperDraft. He started the first professional match of his career, playing 77 minutes in a 4-0 loss to Panama’s Independiente, but spent the majority of his time with the reserve team in USL League One. The next season featured a mere single substitute appearance at the MLS is Back Tournament.

The 2021 season began on a slightly better foot, playing in both legs of the Round of 16 at the CONCACAF Champions League. However, Dorsey was waived by Toronto a few months later. Salvation for his young career came in the form of the Houston Dynamo, which signed him to a one-year contract with options for 2022 and 2023. After a brief on-boarding process, he entered the lineup and enjoyed the first extended run of first-team football, playing in the final 20 matches of the schedule and contributing two goals and three assists. MLS awarded him Team of the Week honors, while the club named him Young Player of the Season and exercised the option on his contract.

In 2022, Dorsey found himself firmly entrenched in the rotation, making 29 appearances across all competitions for the Dynamo. This season, he began as a substitute and even made a few appearances with the reserves, forced to earn his way back into the rotation. The fullback reclaimed his starting role with strong performances during the Leagues Cup and held the spot once the MLS regular season resumed. His contributions include three goals and four assists in 25 matches across all competitions. The league named him in the Team of the Matchday for Matchday 33, but the most recent finish garnered the most headlines.

Taking on Inter Miami (absent Lionel Messi) in the final of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, Dorsey scored the opening goal in the 24th minute. An attacking run put him in perfect position to smash his shot into the top shelf at the near post. The Dynamo claimed the trophy with a 2-1 victory, the first silverware since 2018 and perhaps a sign of future success for the club that is on pace to make the playoffs for the first time in six years.

“He’s a wonderful kid and a wonderful human, and the fact that he’s been on the bench early in the year, it makes me think I was crazy,” said Dynamo manager Ben Olsen. “He worked at his craft, he didn’t sulk, he’s a great example of a guy that’s out of it, coming in, saying, ‘What do I need to do to get on the field? What do I need to work on?’ Grabbing assistant coaches, doing film work. And he’s just a great example for guys too, when you’re not in favor of how to get out of it... At this point, there’s no way I’m taking him off the field.”

At the international level, Dorsey was a regular contributor for various United States youth sides. He was a member of the U-18 team that won the Vaclav Jezek Tournament in the Czech Republic. The program named him to the roster for the group stage at the 2018 CONCACAF U-20 Championship, appearing in four matches and contributing one goal and four assists during the run to the title.

Primarily a right fullback, Dorsey is also capable of lining up at right midfielder, wing-back, and winger. He is described as a “relentless worker” with “an eye for getting behind back lines and making attempts to cross the ball” and “making trailing runs” into the box. His attacking numbers are among the elite for MLS defenders, as his role has been described as a hybrid of multiple wide positions. Some of his best moments come on the counter-attack, using his pace to move into space and cut inside for a shot or latch onto a cross in isolation. Teammates praise him for “training harder than [Cristiano] Ronaldo” and always seeming to “make something happen” when venturing into the final third.

The adjustment to fullback is an ongoing process that has been aided by his background as a winger. “I’ve been [in Houston] for three years, and over that time, I’ve kind of learned the defensive role of that position,” Dorsey shared with Bayou City Soccer. “I love the role, and I fully embrace the defending aspect of that position… I think the adaptation for me is understanding that I am a defender first because I am so attack-minded as a player. For me it’s just about sometimes trying to balance the amount of attacking I do. When it comes to the attacking third, that’s where I feel the most comfortable.”

After a decorated youth career and a few years of idling in Toronto, Dorsey has quietly been building a résumé in Houston. While at the moment unlikely to be considered a top player in the talent pool, he could grow into a serviceable, reliable option at the international level. With January camp on the horizon, there is an opportunity to return to the USMNT fold in order to demonstrate his attacking prowess and potential fit.