Return of the King

Hassli the hero as 'Caps get important win
An old adage says, the best things in life are worth waiting for.

Eric Hassli knows all about that.

GOAL: Hassli wins it at the death

The big Frenchman’s last-gasp winner in the 94th minute against San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday powered Vancouver Whitecaps FC to their fourth win in a row in all competitions, and followed the 31-year-old striker’s match-winner against FC Edmonton in the Canadian Championship on Wednesday.

“It’s like almost six months I didn’t score [in MLS],” Hassli told MLSsoccer.com following the 2-1 win. “So, I’m happy tonight, but the most important thing is that we won 2-1 and we continue our way.”

The hulking striker was quick to credit the fans for helping him through his goal-shy run of form, in which he went 17 Major League Soccer matches without finding the net. So it was fitting he found his winner just feet away from Whitecaps FC’s largest supporters group, the Southsiders.

“It’s a great feeling,” Hassli said. “I would like to say thanks for all the Vancouver Whitecaps fans, because I have a lot of messages via Twitter, and it was just amazing. They’ve got my back, right? So I would like to dedicate this to everybody – because they deserve it.”

Hassli came off the bench to make the difference, and it was fitting that his best off-the-field friend Davide Chiumiento, who came on as a substitute with eight minutes left to play, set him up for the decisive goal with a through ball.

“It was good,” Chiumiento said. “In eight minutes, it’s not so easy sometimes, but I’m happy for Eric and for the win today.”

Despite not playing together that often this season, Chiumiento’s natural chemistry with Hassli was the key, according to the Swiss-Italian.

“It was lucky, because the defender was close to the ball,” Chiumiento said. “But Eric knows me and I know his movements. We didn’t play a lot together this year. I know him, I know his movements. I like to play these balls. That’s my quality, and I’m happy that it worked.”

Starting Hassli and Chiumiento on the bench is a big change for the pair after being the main men in 2011, but their reaction to being left out of the starting line-up was pleasing for their coach.

“As you could see tonight, we really played a different line-up to the line-up that played on Wednesday against Edmonton,” Rennie said. “It just shows it’s a squad game and everybody’s got to be ready to play whatever role they’re given in a given game. When you decide to be part of a team you give up your right to what you want as an individual. You give that up to be part of a team.

“The guys understand that and Davide would probably feel the same. He came on and set up the goal for Eric. These guys have to contribute and they definitely did today.”

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Martin MacMahon covers Vancouver Whitecaps FC for MLSsoccer.com.