No matter which uniform he wears, Eric Hassli is a force to be contended with.
But in two away outings against the big French striker this year – once in Vancouver and once in Toronto – Sporting Kansas City met that force with solid defensive work that kept him off the scoreboard and helped them pick up three valuable road points.
“That’s a tough job,” Sporting manager Peter Vermes told MLSsoccer.com by phone after Saturday’s 1-0 win over Toronto FC. “It’s not easy defending [Hassli], because he’s a big boy and he plays big. So if you have good movement off of him, at some point some of those balls are going to bounce the wrong way. I thought the guys were pretty alert today.”
WATCH: Collin wraps up Hassli
Hassli (above right), who was traded to Toronto from the Vancouver Whitecaps on July 20, did create several chances – several of them dangerous.
He got deep for a ball over the top in the 12th minute, forcing Aurelien Collin to commit a yellow-card foul to avoid a one-on-one breakaway, and headed Torsten Frings’ deflected corner kick off the crossbar in the 42nd. He also got his head to Ryan Johnson’s cross in the 53rd, but pushed it wide under close marking from Collin.
Beyond that, though, Hassli got few good looks at goal as Sporting kept him well-covered on the way to their 10th shutout of the season.
“I think all four of our guys did a good job of that,” Vermes said. “They cover well for each other.”
Sporting’s backline – Chance Myers, Collin, Matt Besler and Seth Sinovic – was the same foursome that shut out Hassli for 90 minutes in Sporting’s 3-1 road win over the Vancouver Whitecaps on April 18. A combination of injuries and a heavy summer schedule had kept them from playing together as a unit since Kansas City’s 2-0 victory at Columbus on July 14.
“I thought they were good,” Vermes said. “This wasn’t an easy game to play, because [TFC] were hitting long balls all over the place. When they’ve got big boys up front like Johnson and Hassli and they’re dropping long balls into them, you can get hurt by the ball bouncing the wrong way.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.