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Toronto FC Top 31 Countdown: Number 11 - Eric Hassli

Probably not as important a long term signing as Darren O'Dea, but by far the most exciting signing of the summer window, questions remain about his future and his effectiveness. At number 11, it's Eric Hassli

Standing back and watching a shot go in, if only we'd got to see a bit more of that.
Standing back and watching a shot go in, if only we'd got to see a bit more of that.
Tom Szczerbowski-US PRESSWIRE

Average Ranking: 12.88
Highest Ranking: 8
Lowest Ranking: 21

Armen: When Danny Koevermans went down with injury, so too did Toronto FC's hopes for salvaging anything from 2012. A season-ending injury saw Koevermans side-lined and cast doubts over his future role with the club; simply put, Koevermans' injury was a tough one to recover from (an ACL tear requiring surgery) and Toronto FC's goal scoring threat had, in one unfortunate accident, been neutralized almost entirely.

That is, until Eric Hassli signed for Toronto FC.

Eric Hassli was picked up by Paul Mariner and Earl Cochrane in exchange for a natural first round draft pick for the 2014 SuperDraft, as well as an international roster spot in 2013. The Hassli trade shocked many, since it came from out of nowhere, and though it was immediately framed as an emergency signing, Hassli's contributions to the team were sporadic but effective.

He, too, often battled through injuries, and was off the team sheet about as often as he was on it; in his short time with Toronto FC, he managed to find three goals, played in seven games (572 minutes overall) and established himself as a possible candidate to start in Toronto FC's offensive line for 2013. Hassli, however, comes with a few drawbacks - first, he's a designated player, in a team that has invested almost half it's salary cap money in five players; secondly, he's on the older side at 32.

Is having two injury-prone forwards in their 30s at DP contracts a smart management move? Perhaps not. My first article at Waking The Red outlined why Toronto FC would do well in choosing one or the other.

Now, it's no stretch to say Hassli is a good player. He oozes class, his first touch is impressive, he's got the strength and the physical build to give backlines a problem and he's already proven he can score some extraordinary goals; while in Vancouver, he scored a phenomenal volley goal against Seattle, and his goal against Toronto FC early in 2012 has been nominated for FIFA's Puskas goal of the year award, a pretty prestigious honour for a player in Major League Soccer.

His performances in a Whitecaps shirt have been strong, too, and his trade to Toronto FC came from Martin Rennie's insistence on starting Kenny Miller as well as Darren Mattocks' emergence in MLS, things certainly didn't get better for the 'Caps after that decision. Hassli saw far too much bench time in Vancouver, akin to Danny Dichio's final days at Toronto FC - both players rode the bench, undeservedly, but the comparisons don't end there: he was a fan favourite in Vancouver, and reaction to his trade from Canada's west coast was mostly negative.

"I am a soccer player. I want to play. I need to play," Hassli told the Star. "I can't stay on the bench.

Certainly, Hassli's quality is enough to warrant a starting spot - in fact, there are few teams that would not benefit from having Hassli in their roster. Why Vancouver got rid of him, I don't know - I certainly would not.

But, that was then, and this is now - the Frenchman no longer dons Vancouver white, rather, Toronto red, and his future with TFC is one of the bigger issues in the offseason. Paul Mariner has included him in his list of "core players" so that will help his case, especially if Mariner doesn't include players like Milos Kocic in that list. Toronto FC fans haven't really seen the best of Eric Hassli - his performances so far haven't done his game justice. He's a magnificent player, and if given a season alongside players like Ryan Johnson and Luis Silva, Hassli has the potential to score plenty of goals.

He's not a pure goalscorer like Danny Koevermans, though, and his numbers will reflect that. While Koevermans prowls inside the box, Hassli dominates outside of it. Whether the two can (or ever will) work together has yet to be seen, but in his solo playing time, Hassli has done enough to gain the confidence of Toronto FC's coaching staff.

If you ask me, Hassli is the guy to take into 2013, but he must be paired with a fast striker, not another big guy up top; this is one of the needs that Toronto FC need to address over the offseason. I expect he will return, and if he does not, Toronto FC have wasted a really valuable first round draft pick and an international spot.

On a personal note, Eric Hassli was my favourite player in MLS while he was still in Vancouver, and his signing for Toronto was the highlight of my 2012 season!

Duncan: 10 My initial reaction when hearing of the trade was 'hell yes, I'll take that' as memories of some spectacular goals he'd scored and the many times he'd terrorised TFC over the years flitted through my head, those two things obviously combining for the goal he scored that was nominated as one of the top ten in the entire world this year. The problem is that that was unrepresentative of how he'd played for Vancouver as a whole last year, it seemed he often saved his best for us. In many other games, he seemed easily dispirited, frustrated by refs who were too harsh on him and too lenient on his opponents, or by teammates not on the same wavelength as him. He was as inconsistent as he could be spectacular, and that carried over to his time with TFC.

We never really got anything spectacular from him, his goals, against Chicago here, and Phialdelphia here for example, were more in the skillfully efficient category, though we did often get the pouting frustrated Hassli. What he mainly was brought was his presence. Opponents had to respect the threat he brought, in a way they didn't when it was, oh let's say Quincy Amarikwa up front with Ryan Johnson. In his first two games for the club, goals were conceded and leads were lost very very shortly after his substitution, against Chicago and Portland as they could attack much more freely with Hassli off the pitch.

The main problem of course was injuries, injured when he got here and suffering two other injuries after his arrival, he didn't play all that much, and never in a winning team.

Will he be here next year? If not, that first round pick was a colossal waste, but keeping him around to save face and justify the gamble could just make the error worse, depending on what happens with our other DP's. Do we really need 3 aging, injury affected DP's? And how will he combine with Danny Koevermans, is that a partnership that can work? I hope so, and I hope he can stay injury free. The romantic in me loves the idea of him in a TFC shirt. the pragmatist still needs a lot of convincing.

Dave: 21 Had a few really good moments after arriving in Toronto but he spent the majority of his time on the injury report rather than on the playing field. He did enough to win over fans but the question remains of whether or not he will be back next season.

John: 17 A desperate buy, in which we got a lemon.

Michael: 14 Very high price for an oft injured player who was acquired to improve fortunes and we end up in the same place we started

Kristin: 12 He was signed injured, got injured again, was largely invisible for many games. I see the potential as a goal scorer but potential doesn't win games.

The Ghost of TFC Future: Trade of the year… for Vancouver. I feel like Mariner watched his YouTube highlight reel, remembered that goal he'd scored earlier in the year against Toronto in the Voyageurs Cup, assumed that Vancouver didn't want him for some illegitimate reason (not from lack of production and injury) and decided he was the way to go. Good at holding up the ball, but is pretty ineffective without support. I don't know if he'll be back. Considering we gave up next year's first round draft pick (which, sadly, is likely to be a high one), I certainly hope he's back... for face-saving, if nothing else. And not as a DP.

The Yorkies: If he's back in 2013 he needs to be the Eric Hassli we hated in Vancouver again.

Casual Soccer Fan: TFC overpaid for him, but 5 points in 7 games shows undeniable talent.

DichioTFC: Mariner got the Hassli signing done seemingly out of nowhere after Koevermans went down with his knee injury. The cost he paid for the aging striker could prove to be a massive gift for Vancouver if TFC screw up 2013, in what is perceived to be a strong graduating NCAA class. Getting injured late in the season didn't help Hassli's cause, and neither does his DP-spot or his $790K salary. However, the club does hold an option on Hassli for 2013 and if a contract can be renegotiated to free up a DP slot, I would be the first one to welcome a Hassli / Koevermans / RJ9 strike force to open 2013.

Prizby: Victim to a various amount of knocks and injuries, when he did see the field, he was fairly productive scoring three goals and two assists in only seven games, but he hasn’t and may not ever live up the billing he cost; a first round pick (potentially first overall) in 2014 and in international spot for the 2013 season.

Sir Alphonso Applegate: Liked his effort, liked his goals and assists. Don't like his DP contract or his neck tats. Would love him back as long as he's not a DP.

Ignirtoq: Helluva move for a stop gap, but I don't believe he has what it takes to lead in some capacity and with his wages, leadership is not optional, it's mandatory.

Shel Soze: Pouts on the field way too much

JC_Plante: Only played 7 matches. When he was willing, he caused issues. But his effort was less than stellar.

Panos Kelamis: Doesn’t have the finishing ability of Koef, and his not the athlete he once was . . .

David Kent: Not worth a first rounder,however a crowd favorite, and again needs midfielder. Great touch,not tough enough.

Number 10: Reggie Lambe

Number 12: Julian de Guzman

Full Top 31 Countdown