Eric HassliEven though many Toronto FC supporters have either already written off the 2012 season, or even written off the club as a lost cause at this point I think it is fair to say that the Front Office has not done so just yet, based in no small part on a big development for the team from late last week.

Just as the Aron Winter firing/Paul Mariner promotion was a statement of intent that they felt the 2012 season was not written off just yet so did the acquisition last week of Toronto FC’s fifth Designated Player in club history in the shape of striker Eric Hassli from Canadian rivals Vancouver Whitecaps.

Under Paul Mariner the improved production from now injured striker Danny Koevermans was arguably the single most important on field element that saw TFC under his guidance start to improve and get results both home and away. Before his injury only runaway MLS presumptive Golden Boot winner Chris Wondoloski was scoring at a quicker clip than Koevermans was. Koevermans’ sudden loss over a week ago in New England most likely in their eyes instantly became the single largest stumbling block the team faced looking ahead to the Champions League and to the remainder of the MLS schedule if they wanted to salvage anything reasonable from this season. Not replacing Koevermans as near to “like for like” as they could would probably be notice from them at least that they did not see any worth in trying to do anything significant to try and get anything meaningful results wise from the rest of the 2012 campaign.

The severity of that injury and the challenge a 33 year old is going to have to come back from an injury like an ACL and still have a career probably forced TFC’s hand to make the move last week to bring Hassli in from the left coast. And Vancouver was only too happy to oblige with rookie of the year candidate and “mansier” wearer Darren Mattocks emerging as a goal threat plus Scottish International Kenny Miller being brought in to bolster the Whitecaps attack saw Hassli basically become surplus to requirements… And apparently Vancouver was ready to move him out for just about anything in return.

In this league the rarest commodity is a proven striker who can score goals on a consistent basis. Koevermans form before his injury proved how an in form striker can have a disproportionate impact on a club’s fortunes in a salary cap/parity league like MLS. That is why I think TFC went for Hassli. He can score and he has proven it in MLS.

Whether Hassli can be the “goal every other game” striker that TFC needs to replace Danny however remains to be seen. Hassli had scored only two goals this season in MLS play (and 12 in 44 total appearances with Vancouver overall), is currently carrying a knock, lost his job to a rookie and saw his club show enough disbelief in his abilities to do the job required that they signed his replacement in Kenny Miller a week ago from Cardiff City of the English Championship.

What Hassli does possess is technical skill, significant physical strength, the ability to intimidate and bully defenders (particularly if they are under size) and enough of a track record and knowledge base of the game such as it is in MLS to perhaps not be looked as a big a risk as it might have been to go and get a replacement for Koevermans from outside of the league. And not having to trade anyone off the current roster certainly made the decision for TFC probably a much easier one.

So you have a club in Toronto FC that is taking on another significant financial burden in what might turn out to be a rent-a-player (his 2012 wages to come are in the range of $400,000 US) come the end of the season. There is now salary cap/DP space to go out and try and get some help at the back. As it stands today TFC has two DP’s and can take on a third if they deem it necessary to secure the quality of help they feel they need at the back (More on this later as the transfer window closes by the end of the week).

Taking on any player is a gamble. Taking on a striker who has not been scoring of late is an even bigger gamble. Taking on a player who is also a Designated Player in this league is an even bigger gamble.

But as a paying customer I for one am glad that TFC is at least looking like they are not writing off this season.

And I look forward to see Hassli in TFC red. I have always respected him as a player and I think if healthy his skill set matches well with the style of play Mariner is trying to implement. And if he can score a goal or two like this one below I think he will be a fast fan favourite in Toronto.

WELCOME TO TORONTO ERIC HASSLI

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