Farewell to the big crazy Frenchman: Hassli departsJuly 20, 2012 at 8:08 pm | Posted in Vancouver Whitecaps, Whitecaps Season 2012 | 5 Comments
It is a sad day for the fans of the Vancouver Whitecaps. Sad but inevitable. Eric Hassli was one of the top paid players on the Whitecaps roster, yet he played less and less for the team in 2012.
Whitecaps coach Martin Rennie only plays with one striker, and the role of sole striker did not suit the big Frenchman. Hassli is suited to a 4-4-2 setup, and this was just not on the cards with Rennie in charge. Hassli likes to get the ball at his feet, where is best talents lay. More often than not Hassli was asked to fight for long high balls; yet his weakness is he has poor heading ability (he never scored one goal with his head the whole time he was here). He had no support in the games he started at the beginning of the season, and his frustration began to show.
Once rookie striker Darren Mattocks found his feet and started scoring, Hassli was consigned to the bench. Then his best pal Chiumiento moved on to Zurich. When Scottish striker Kenny Miller was signed earlier this week, the writing was so large on the wall that no one could fail to read it: Hassli was going to move.
Hassli’s time as a Vancouver Whitecaps player was the stuff of legend. In my view he will go down in Vancouver sports history as one of the great characters that played professional sport in this city. His performances in the first matches of the 2011 season were absolutely electrifying, and I soon fell in love with his wild, outrageous character. He scored the first Whitecaps goal in the first game of the Major League Soccer era, scored perhaps the most spectacular goal in the entire history of the club in Seattle last year, and thrilled us all with an injury time winner this year against San Jose. He got sent off a number of times (hilariously in the 2011 home game against New England after removing his shirt after a successfully converted penalty kick), and generally had problems with referees. It just made him all the more loveable.
Perhaps Hassli’s fault is that he is not good at consistently scoring lots of boring goals, only the occasional spectacular ones. His strike against TFC at home this year in the Canadian Championship, was absolutely spectacular, but ordinary goals were few: he scored only two goals in Major League Soccer play this year in 9 starts and 9 further games played as a substitute.
During the 2011 season, which became a bit of a disaster as it went along, Hassli was one of the best reasons to be a Vancouver Whitecaps fan. Towards the latter half of that season, however, Hassli became barren and could not score goals.
It looked like Hassli’s fortunes would turn when the club signed Sebastian Le Toux for the 2012 season. The “French Connection” started well but soon fizzled, and Le Toux moved on as Hassli sat on the bench. The crowd started chanting Darren Mattock’s name instead of Eric Hassli’s.
I believe under a different coach, Hassli could have flourished. One of my criticisms of Martin Rennie is that he failed to find a way to get the best out of the guy who was arguably our most gifted player. Hassli thrived under Teitur Thordarson because he got to play in a 4-4-2 formation with another striker, playing attacking football. Martin Rennie’s defensive model with five midfielders left him stranded alone up front; this did not suit Eric’s entertaining and swashbuckling style. He could not chase down long balls with the same speed as Darren Mattocks, hence his consignment to the bench.
Recently TFC’s Danny Koevermans had a season ending injury, so Hassli is a perfect match for TFC. TFC fans will love him just as much as we did, and I am sure that TFC’s coach Paul Mariner (a superb striker for Ipswich Town in his own day), will succeed in getting the best out of Eric where Rennie failed. Perhaps it is all for the best. I for one, will watch his future with a great deal of interest, even if he now plays for a hated rival. Our loss is truly TFC’s gain.
Our Swiss League trio of Hassli, Chiumiento and Rochat now has been reduced to one. Is the now lonely Rochat set to move on as well? If he goes too, about half of the footballing skill the Whitecaps have will be gone with these guys.
Farewell to our beloved crazy Frenchman and farewell to his mad tattoos.
For me, and a lot of other Vancouver Whitecaps fans, this is a very sad day indeed.