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Hassli’s wonder strike punctuates thrilling Cascadia derby

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Eric Hassli may be about as complicated a striker that MLS has ever seen grace its fields.

He’s fallen victim to his own temper and poor decision-making. He’s made opponents bleed, and befuddled fans by earning cards for the strangest of offences. But, he’s also proven himself to be a S.O.B. for fullbacks to match up against.

On Saturday, Hassli showed just how special a player he can be; his equalizer in a 2-2 draw with the rival Seattle Sounders at Qwest Field was nothing short of brilliant. It is the kind of goal that will not only be shown on local highlight reels, but will likely be seen on best-goals packages broadcast all around the world.

Yes, the goal was THAT spectacular.

Hassli pounced on a poor clearing attempt from Seattle’s Osvaldo Alonso, who had just given the Sounders the lead a minute before. Hassli got to in the top corner of the penalty area, but he was running away from goal. But, he managed to flip the ball up, then spin and volley a ball that went over Seattle keeper Kasey Keller’s head, then dropped in after kissing the far post.

Somehow, Hassli managed to flip the ball up to himself turn and deliver an inch-perfect shot from an angle that would have been difficult enough to score on had he been running onto the ball.

Ridiculous.

It was an audacious counterpunch from the Caps, which had just given up two goals in three minutes to see a 1-0 lead transformed into a 2-1 deficit.

It was a poor night for Alonso, even though he did score Seattle’s second goal. He was also called for tripping Camilo in the penalty area, which Hassli converted with an audacious chip from the spot that went straight up the middle.

Mauro Rosales tied the game at 1-1 when he got his foot onto a ball that teammate Tyson Wahl had lofted into the Whitecaps’ penalty area. The cross was deflected a couple of times before Rosales was Johnny-on-the-Spot.

Alonso smashed home the second goal with his left foot, after Vancouver midfielder Jeb Brovsky gave the ball away right at the top of the Whitecaps’ penalty area.

The goals were just part of the story — this was a wild match, befitting of one of the oldest rivalries in North American pro soccer, now rekindled in MLS. Vancouver and Seattle traded scoring chances in the first half, then the Whitecaps tried to settle and defend their 1-0 lead in the second half as the Sounders came forward in waves. By the end of the game, Seattle had more than 60 per cent of the ball.

After the Whitecaps probed the Seattle goal with a few long-range efforts, Shea Salinas got the first great chance to open the scoring. A Gershon Koffie pass split the middle of the Sounders’ defence; Salinas ran onto it, with Wahl chasing vainly. Salinas struck his shot just wide of the right post.

Alonso then had Seattle’s best chance of the first half, turning at the top of the Whitecaps’ box and then volleying a shot towards goal. The shot was dipping under the bar when ‘Caps keeper Joe Cannon intervened, stretching to tip the ball over.

Seattle had its own shouts for a penalty denied late in the first half when Michael Fucito was thrown off stride by Whitecaps’ defender Alain Rochat just as he was putting his foot through a shot.

It was a game with plenty of incidents, plenty of talking points — and it was an outstanding advertisement for Major League Soccer.

But, in the end, this was Hassli’s night.

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