When a Designated Player comes to MLS, they often don a confident grin from ear to ear. But when Eric Hassli spoke at his introductory press conference in Vancouver on Thursday, you could hardly hear his soft-spoken voice projected through the microphone.
“I got a sense that he was quite nervous,” said Whitecaps FC president Bob Lenarduzzi, “and that’s actually something that I find appealing.”
It may seem a strange statement. After all, wouldn’t you want your flashy new signing to beam with confidence?
“I think with any good goalscorer, you want them to have a swagger,” stated Lenarduzzi.” You want them to have arrogance, and you want to see that out on the field.”
At first glance, then, Hassli’s nerves seem a tad contradictory to what the club is looking for from their new striker. But Lenarduzzi says that the anxiety just shows that the Frenchman is taking this new challenge very seriously.
“A lot guys come over from Europe and feel like, ‘Okay, this is going to be a walk in the park,’ and sometimes that goes beyond a confidence,” explained Lenarduzzi. “I don’t get that feel from him.”
Whitecaps FC director of soccer operations Tom Soehn has coached in MLS, and he’s seen the pitfalls of signing a DP. That’s why he put such diligence into scouting Hassli before offering him a chance to join the ‘Caps.
“You really have to focus on the quality of the character and make sure it’s right,” iterated Soehn. “[Hassli] wants to win, and that falls in pattern with what we want to do. And he wants to take on a new challenge. He’s excited about the opportunity.”
Hassli is no slouch. The 6-foot-4 target man netted four goals in his last three matches before leaving Swiss club FC Zürich. Soehn is excited about having a large, physical presence up top.
“MLS is a very physical league, it’s an athletic league and it’s also good having a presence in the box,” said Soehn. “He’s a big target. What I like most about Eric is his ability to really hold the ball and distribute. He’s got pretty special feet for a big man.”
Immediately following the press conference, Hassli hit the field to train with his new teammates for the first time.