VANCOUVER, B.C. — Eric Hassli was unstoppable in the Vancouver Whitecaps’ 4-2 victory over the Chicago Fire at Empire Field on Sunday evening, and the secret to his performance might lie in his stomach.
Following his scrambling 72nd-minute goal, the big French striker gyrated in front of the Southsiders supporters group in what is one of the more memorable goal-scoring celebrations this season. He revealed to reporters after the match that it was a tribute to teammate Davide Chiumiento’s mother, who is visiting Vancouver.
“She’s in town and she’s been cooking nice Italian meals,” Hassli said through a translator. “She’s amazing.”
But the tastiest treat Hassli concocted for Vancouver’s fans came in the first minute, as he got them up off their seats before they even had a chance to sit down with a cracker of a blast into the top right corner.
“I was just concentrating on getting the ball into the right position to make the great shot,” Hassli said. “It was my pleasure to score those great goals.
“To win at our field is very important to us, for the fans especially. They deserve it.”
While the four goals scored by the Whitecaps was top of mind for most following the match, head coach Tom Soehn preferred to highlight his team’s defensive work.
“We spent this week really focusing on commitment to defending, and not just our [defenders], I’m talking about the forwards,” Soehn said. “Camilo [Sanvezzo] and Eric did a fantastic job of winning ball to help us out in the middle of the park. Defensively, there was a lot more commitment to what we need to do to win games.”
A key moment in the match was Gershon Koffie’s immediate reply to Dominic Oduro’s equalizing goal. Koffie scored just one minute after Oduro’s 23rd minute strike to bring the ‘Caps back into the lead at 2-1.
“There’re crucial times in every game,” Soehn said. “Starting a game well, responding after you get scored on. Good teams respond, and that’s what we need to focus on — making sure you have responses for difficult times in the game. Gershon’s goal really helped us get back into the flow of things.”
Koffie’s long-range effort seemed to surprise Fire ‘keeper Sean Johnson. The ball bounced up on the artificial turf and the trajectory of the ball seemed to throw off the netminder with its movement. The goal was the Ghanaian’s first as a professional.
“I’ve been working [on shooting] and I got it today,” Koffie said. “[The coach] has been talking to me, saying ‘Gersh, you have to keep shooting, because you have the power to shoot, you have to keep the confidence.’”
The win brings the Whitecaps to 18 points on the season, still seven points behind 8th-place San Jose Earthquakes. They travel on Saturday to Washington, D.C., to play D.C. United.
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter: @martinmacmahon