To say Eric Hassli is snakebitten is an understatement.
The big Frenchman hasn’t scored in his last 14 appearances for Vancouver Whitecaps FC stretching back to 2011, and hasn’t looked quite as unstoppable as he did during the first half of last season when he was one of the league’s best strikers.
“I’m focused on shooting on target,” Hassli told MLSsoccer.com at Burnaby Lake field on Monday. “I hope it’s going to come.”
During Monday’s training session, the team focused on crossing and shooting drills, with Hassli and the rest of the attacking group getting plenty of finishing practice.
“The most important thing is to stay positive,” Sebastien Le Toux said of his strike partner’s scoring drought. “I told him last year I played 22 games [with only one goal], and then at the end of the year, I scored 10 goals and one in the playoffs, so it’s just a matter of time, and he’ll find the net very soon.”
Being clinical will be essential against league-leading Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday night (7 p.m. PT; watch live on Sportsnet Pacific and Bell mobile devices, listen on TEAM 1410 radio). The high-flying club, which has won all six of its games this year, holds the league’s best overall defensive record with only one goal conceded. They also just put together a streak of more than 300 minutes without allowing a shot on goal.
Whitecaps FC defeated Sporting 3-0 during preseason, but a lot has changed since then.
“It’s a great start for [KC],” Hassli said. “We played against [Kansas City] in preseason, but it’s like it’s not the same team. They have a lot of confidence. They’re a great team with good players. It’s going to be hard but we’re ready.”
Hassli has struggled with ankle and hamstring issues this season, but head coach Martin Rennie is confident the club’s first Designated Player will find his form sooner rather than later.
“He’s missed a couple of games with little knocks,” Rennie said. “With forwards they do get judged on goals, but as a coach you have to judge them on not just the goals, but all the other things they’re doing, and I think he’s doing a lot of other things. Defending well from the front, pressing from the front, holding the ball up, linking up quite well, but as a striker he needs a goal.
“If he gets one, he could go on a run of getting a few. Hopefully, we could start that on Wednesday.”
Martin MacMahon covers Vancouver Whitecaps FC for MLSsoccer.com.