Following a 2-2 draw at the Seattle Sounders two weeks ago, Vancouver Whitecaps defender Alain Rochat said that we were now going to see the “real” Eric Hassli.
But after an up-and-down season that’s seen moments of brilliance (including a Goal of the Week winner in Seattle) mixed with moments of frustration, the question has been: Who, exactly, is the real Eric Hassli?
“He’s really a good guy for the team,” Rochat said. “He brings a lot to the fans and he’s always joking with teammates. You need some players like that in the group to keep everyone happy and together, and Eric is that kind of guy.”
Rochat knows Hassli better than most, having spent four years playing with the forward at FC Zürich in Switzerland. It was that connection that helped bring Hassli to Vancouver, where all parties felt he could excel.
Some early troubles with ejections slowed his progress, but after consecutive strong performances, the big man looks to be hitting his stride on the field.
“It’s a league that complements my style, which is physical,” said Hassli through a translator. “It’s a lot different than Europe and the referee’s have been a bit difficult to adjust to. I had thought it might be a reputation thing, but it’s up to me to be more intelligent about it and pay more attention.”
A big reason for his improved play has been the move of Davide Chiumiento—another former Swiss Super League player—to a withdrawn striker role where he can play off of Hassli.
"[Hassli] has a great technique and he can keep the ball so well for us, Chiumiento said. "Personally, I like to play a lot with him and to make one-two, fast passes and short passes. With this way of playing, we can make a lot of good things in the future.”
The pair have become close friends off the field as well, and Chiumiento says that it’s been great to link up with his mountainous pal as they look to create some more magic this season.
“He’s a great guy with a big heart that’s in the right place, and that’s important,” Chiumiento said. “When he came here, from the first day we had a great feeling together. We are great friends and that’s always good. If we can bring that feeling on the field and to play and to help each other and to help other teammates, it’s perfect.”