If ever there was evidence that fairy tales do come true, it certainly appeared that way back on March 18, 2011, when Eric Hassli made his MLS debut in front of the hometown faithful at Empire Stadium against Toronto FC.
Hassli took Vancouver by storm that afternoon - opening Vancouver's goal-scoring account just 15 minutes into the match, before adding another tally in the second half, as the Caps downed TFC 4-2. It was a case of being much more than a one night love affair.
The big Frenchman's first red card came in the following match. Suddenly, it was tainted love.
And just two weeks after that, in an eventful match presided over by my favourite MLS official, Baldomero Toledo, Hassli picked up another goal - and, head-scratchingly, another red. Nobody knew what would come next. Was it a case of good luvin' gone bad?
Hassli went 10-8-3 that year, with 10 goals, 8 yellows, and and a league-leading 3 reds. ESPN's Leander Schaerlaeckens penned a superb piece on Hassli near the end of the 2011 season. The following year, things fell apart for him. A drought ensued, and after only 2 goals in 18 matches played, he was moved.
It's been nine months since the Vancouver Whitecaps dealt Eric Hassli to Toronto FC in exchange for a first-round pick in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft and an international roster spot, and I still miss seeing him ply his trade. He's since been moved again - this time to FC Dallas in a TFC roster dump, amid talk that Hassli's new wife apparently didn't enjoy the polar climes of Toronto in the winter.
This weekend, in Dallas, Vancouver may well have their first opportunity to face Hassli since his trade. According to Big D Soccer, our SB Nation sister blog for the Toros, he's at the tail end of recovering from a preseason injury. So far this year, he's been limited to a total of 60 minutes in four appearances as a substitute, as he's getting back into game shape.
With Kenny Cooper in a bit of a slump of late, Hassli may get some decent second-half minutes against the Caps, and maybe more than that when FCD travel here to the West Coast for the return leg of their home and away series with Vancouver.
I can't deny it - I'm still a Hassli fan. He failed to produce here in 2012, and I understood, reluctantly, the need to move him and his 900k DP salary. Yet, that doesn't stop me from appreciating the kind of magic he was, and maybe still is capable of. His goal against Seattle is still the best marker I've ever seen scored in the MLS.
And it won't stop me from hoping he unleashes one of his lightning bolts to score this weekend - all in a losing cause, of course. I may be sentimental, and might have problems reading match schedules, but I'm not completely stupid.
Say what you want about Eric Hassli, love him or hate him, things were very rarely dull when he was on the pitch. With that in mind, I'm looking forward to a truly exciting tilt, and if Hassli gets the call, I gotta say that 'll be lovin' every minute of it.