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Quick Thoughts on Fixing Eric Hassli

Eric Hassli fails to beat Amir Lowery of the Montreal Impact to the ball. (Bob Frid/Canadian Soccer Association)
Eric Hassli fails to beat Amir Lowery of the Montreal Impact to the ball. (Bob Frid/Canadian Soccer Association)

As I didn't get home until almost 1 AM Thursday morning, I will need a little time to come up with the Vancouver Whitecaps - Montreal Impact post-game. Forgive me. Frankly, my head is still spinning.

But I did want to think about Eric Hassli before I went to bed. As Chris Corrigan observed in the game-day thread, Hassli had a pretty rough go of it before Teitur Thordarson took the big Frenchman out at half. He's been having a pretty rough go of it the last couple of weeks: not only has he not been scoring but he hasn't even been getting into position to score. There are fewer cards being shown, which is nice, but also conspicuously less effective play. It's not a good tradeoff.

He's not starving for service. Hassli (and the other forwards; Camilo in particular) have of course been hurt by the ragged Whitecaps defense playing too much long ball. But Hassli's been getting decent service from out wide thanks to Davide Chiumiento, Russell Teibert, and of late Shea Salinas. He's seeing the ball, and he's seeing the ball in decent positions. But he's no longer charging forward, showing that killer instinct, and gunning for his opportunities.

Frankly, I think he's scared. Hassli's been in all the papers for his indiscipline and he's overreacting. Desperately afraid of getting a call from the infamous North American referees now that he has a bit of a reputation, Hassli's giving up his physical play. He no longer tries to barge through enemy defenders or wrestle his way to a ball: instead, he tries to get by on skill and guile. And he has some of that; he's no Atiba Harris even at his worst. He'll get by and he'll score a couple goals. But he's by no means as effective as he should be.

We're reaching an important point in Hassli's time with the Whitecaps, too: the midfield is starting to get healthy. Late in the second half, we finally saw Teitur Thordarson go to the formation he's wanted all year: a 4-4-1-1 with a target man at the top, a playmaker (Davide Chiumiento, ideally) in the hole, and strong wing play from Teibert, Salinas, and sometimes Nizar Khalfan. Given how high the wingers play it's almost a 4-2-1-3, which I'm not sure is even a thing. But it's a formation that relies on a strong target man who can bang in crosses, hit the ball with power, and decimate defenses with strength and skill. Eric Hassli is the only man on this team who can fill that role as long as Atiba Harris is out.

If Teitur sticks with that formation, there's going to be a lot of pressure on Hassli. He will be asked to score a lot of this team's goals, and that means he can't play timidly. We have to see the Hassli we saw against Toronto, not the one we've seen twice against Montreal. Even a few cards, no matter what the colour, are a worthwhile tradeoff. It's time he was a bit more selfish, a bit less cautious, and started trying to terrorize defenses again.