TORONTO – Forward Eric Hassli could make his Toronto FC debut on Saturday against the Houston Dynamo as the Reds go for their fourth win in a row (4:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online).
Head coach Paul Mariner wouldn’t make any guarantees on Friday, though, saying he would wait before making a decision.
“He could play tomorrow, I think,” Mariner said after training on Friday. “What I don’t want to do is, I don’t want to blow him up. So we’ll see how he is tomorrow to make a decision.”
Hassli, who was acquired from the Vancouver Whitecaps in a trade on July 20, went through a series of drills with the training staff Friday to test his injured right ankle.
The 31-year-old French forward turned the ankle after landing awkwardly on a header in Vancouver’s 1-0 loss to Chicago on July 14.
Toronto obtained the Designated Player to help replace Danny Koevermans, who was lost for the season to knee surgery after suffering an torn ACL on July 14 in the club’s 1-0 win over New England.
“He’s a tremendous presence when you meet him,” Mariner said. “Very excited to have him on the club. To be honest, when Danny went down, it was a really, really sad moment for us all. We wondered how we were ever going to replace his goals.
“I must say we have a couple of players who can fill the boots at the moment. Andrew Wiedeman has done a great job when he’s come in. Quincy [Amarikwa] did very well against Liverpool, a real striker’s goal, and then you’ve got Eric and Ryan [Johnson] up front, which can be very dangerous.”
Mariner feels that Hassli should work well with Johnson and the adjustment should come fairly quickly.
“I think because they’re experienced players, it doesn’t take long, you know” Mariner said. “They both bring different qualities. I think Eric is the quintessential hold-up guy and you get him in the box, we’ve got people out wide who can serve him. Ryan likes to drift into that inside channel, so it’s almost an ideal partnership.”
After leading the line the past few games, Johnson agreed with his coach, saying the addition should help Toronto continue their current run.
“I always thought he was one of the best forwards in the league, for the size that he has,” the forward said. “And his feet are so soft. To be actually playing with him now, it’s a great opportunity for me and also for the team to really make this playoff push and I think it can really happen. Getting Hassli is a huge help in that direction.”