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Final

ACC: Hassli's highlight show rolls on with crucial goal

VANCOUVER, B.C. – The Eric Hassli highlight reel has a new addition.

The big Frenchman’s spectacular stoppage-time volley on Wednesday salvaged a 1-1 draw for the Vancouver Whitecaps in the first leg of the Amway Canadian Championship finals, ensuring the 'Caps won't head to Toronto next week with a mountain to climb.

HIGHLIGHTS: Vancouver 1, Toronto 1

“Alain [Rochat] gave me a great ball,” Hassli told reporters following the match. “I practiced yesterday. I killed some birds [with wayward shots] and today was pretty good – lucky, too. It’s a good goal.”

It’s Hassli’s fourth goal in his last five matches, but the end result of a draw didn’t leave him satisfied.

“I’m a striker,” Hassli said. “I’m happy personally – I’m a striker and I need to score. I have to score. But I’m disappointed like my teammates, because we wanted to win tonight.”

The goal brought about one of those moments at BC Place that left fans throwing whatever was in their hands up in the air. Down on the Vancouver bench, Man of the Match John Thorrington had a similar reaction as he was licking his wounds following a feisty midfield display.

“I was in the middle of icing,” Thorrington said. “I threw my ice, my recovery shake up in the air. What a fantastic goal. Not many guys in the world can do that and we’ve seen that a few times for him. I’m sure that’ll do wonders for him and wonders for the team.

“He’s a guy to be feared around the league and that’s why the team brought him here and we saw us get rewarded with a fantastic goal and something for the fans to be really excited about.”

With six minutes left on the clock, Toronto nearly doubled their lead, as Nick Soolsma found himself wide open in the box after a cross from Ryan Johnson. The Dutchman’s effort was well saved by Joe Cannon, who flung himself at the ball fearlessly to keep Vancouver in the match and, perhaps, in the tie.

“That save’s just as important as Eric’s goal when you look at it,” Thorrington said. “It’s 1-0 at that point and [Cannon] makes a fantastic save point-blank one on one, and then we come back and make it 1-1. So, instead of it being 2-0, we’re now right back in it with excitement going to Toronto.

“Goalies don’t always get the credit they deserve, but that save is worth exactly as much as Eric’s goal. He’s been fantastic this year, he’s a great leader back there. He’s been in great form and I’m really glad he’s on our team.”

Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com.