Head coach Paul Mariner hopes to keep the goals flowing for Toronto FC after acquiring French striker Eric Hassli.
The 31-year-old forward was introduced Saturday prior to Toronto’s afternoon match against the Houston Dynamo at BMO Field.
Hassli, a designated player, arrived via a trade with the Vancouver Whitecaps a week ago to fill the offensive gap left by a season-ending knee injury to Danny Koevermans. The Dutch striker went down in the first half of Toronto’s 1-0 win against the New England Revolution on July 14.
“I thought privately my world caved in because how do you replace a player of that quality?” said Mariner about Koevermans, who had nine goals on the season. “I was pleasantly surprised to find out we could get this young man beside me. I can’t tell you how elated I was we were able to get Eric.”
Hassli had 10 goals in 2011 — Vancouver’s inaugural season — and was considered a fan favourite. He scored the Whitecaps’ first goal in Major League Soccer, and also registered the club’s first MLS red card.
However, he only scored twice in 18 appearances this season, as his playing time dwindled under new Vancouver coach Martin Rennie.
“I am a soccer player, I need to play,” Hassli said. “I can’t stay on the bench.”
Hassli says he’s looking forward to a fresh start under Mariner.
“Getting traded may be hard sometimes but I spoke with the coach and I felt so much appreciation,” Hassli said. “He really wanted me. I really want to work really hard to give back the confidence that he has.”
Toronto entered Saturday on a three-game win streak but still remains last in the MLS standings tied with Portland at 5-11-4.
Hassli, who stands six foot four and is heavily tattooed, knows getting Toronto back into the playoff picture won’t be easy, but still believes it can be done.
“They lost the first nine games and it’s really hard for the confidence,” he said. “Now they did really great, in the last three games. We have a lot of games to play and we will see.
“We have a great quality in the team and I believe in this team. We have to believe we can do the playoff this year. Even if it’s going to be really hard, I believe.”
Hassli was held out of the lineup Saturday to rest an ankle injury he suffered while playing for Vancouver. He’ll likely make his debut when Toronto opens its latest CONCACAF Champions League campaign on Aug. 1 at home against CD Aguila of El Salvador.