ORLANDO, Fla. – Vancouver forward Eric Hassli is convinced: The Whitecaps have to become addicts.
“We have to be addicts to win games,” the Frenchman told MLSsoccer.com after Friday’s practice session. “The first time is [Saturday].”
Hassli is referring to the Disney Pro Soccer Classic trophy that is up for grabs on Saturday night in a match that will be televised nationwide in Canada (8 pm ET, TSN.ca and TSN2) and the USA (8 pm ET, ESPN3.com).
A victory accompanied by silverware for the MLS version of the Whitecaps, who were among the worst teams in their 2011 expansion season, would prove a boost to the revolution being implemented by manager Martin Rennie.
“We’ve talked about trying to change the culture and mentality and expecting to do well and working hard with that belief,” Rennie said after Friday’s practice. “This [final] is another chance to help us grow that, build that and help guys get confidence in themselves.
“Winning definitely helps,” continued Rennie. “When you do start to see guys come together a little bit more they feel things are working and make sense and they buy into it more easily.”
Highlights: VAN 3, SKC 0
Rennie will have his work cut out for him this weekend. In addition to the Disney Cup final on Saturday night, the Whitecaps will play on Sunday afternoon for a Community Shield against the Scotsman’s old club, the Carolina RailHawks. He will manage both games, flying to Carolina first thing Sunday morning.
He refused to reveal exactly how he will divide his squad for the two matches but based on the breakout of Friday’s practice session, a first-choice side is likely in Orlando. Not that it matters much in Vancouver’s case: Vancouver have mowed down the competition at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex regardless of their lineup, registering three shutout wins and a combined 7-0 score line.
On the other side of the field will be a Toronto FC team made up of academy players and trialists after TFC sent their senior team home to prepare for their upcoming CONCACAF Champions League matches against the LA Galaxy. Even Rennie’s counterpart, Aron Winter, will be back in Toronto.
Rennie insists, however, that the Whitecaps are only interested in how they perform, regardless of who Toronto line up. One of Vancouver’s goals is to have more players go the entire 90 minutes with First Kick 2012 exactly one week away against Montreal.
“We have a real detailed plan,” Rennie said. “And part of that is going out and focusing on our game and playing it to the best of our ability. It doesn’t matter who you’re playing against but it matters how hard you push yourself.”
“It’s always special because Toronto is a rival and it’s always good to win against Toronto,” Hassli said of the Disney final. “It’s the end of preseason and we have to work really hard [Saturday].”