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Whitecaps get two from Hassli in end-to-end draw in San Jose

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Eric Hassli... 8 goals on the season
On a night that saw the Vancouver Whitecaps’ second Designated Player make his MLS debut, DP No. 1 salvaged the club a point.

Eric Hassli scored twice as the Whitecaps came back from 1-0 and 2-1 deficits to earn a 2-2 draw at Buck Shaw in a wide open, end-to-end game that could have very easily with a ridiculous scoreline like 4-4 or 5-5.

Defending was definitely not on show, as each team carved out chance after chance. Posts, crossbars, great saves and misses from close range were the norm.

For the Whitecaps, it was as if —despite the absence of now-Toronto FC man Terry Dunfield and the addition of new DP striker Mustapha Jarju — we had gone back to April and May, when the club played attacking, high-risk football. The team went forward, knowing it was exposing itself on the break — but heck, that was the way the Whitecaps, based on the talent they had.

Chris Wondolowski, last season’s top scorer in MLS, scored twice for San Jose.

With defenders Jay DeMerit (groin problem), Alain Rochat (wife having a baby) and Jordan Harvey (card accumulation) all out, the Whitecaps had a very soft underbelly for the Earthquakes to exploit.

Three minutes in, defender Greg Janicki kept Wondolowski onside, as the striker latched on to a long, speculative pass from Simon Dawkins and beat his former teammate, Whitecaps’ keeper Joe Cannon.

While Cannon had a very unwelcome homecoming at Buck Shaw, Shea Salinas had a banner night going up and down the left wing. Moments after Whitecaps defender Jonathan Leathers made a saving tackle to stop a scoring chance from Earthquake Steven Lenhart — who lingered too long on the ball — Salinas, who played 46 times for the Quakes, created a chance by lofting a ball into the San Jose penalty area.

Hassli pounced on the bounding ball and, knowing he couldn’t settle it down, cracked it on the half volley. Quakes keeper Jon Busch got a hand to it, but couldn’t keep it out.

Wondolowski restored the lead when he was left open in the Whitecaps area to head-home an inch-perfect free kick from new Quake Jacob Peterson, acquired last week from Toronto FC.

Nana Attakora and Alan Gordon, the two other ex-TFC players acquired in the deal that sent Ryan Johnson the other way, weren’t dressed.

But Salinas and Hassli combined to equalize., Lenhart sprung free, but took far too long, and allowed Leathers to catch him from behind. Davide Chiumiento, the midfield playmaker, returned from injury and come on for Jarju in the 57th. He sprung Salinas free down the left side with a good ball. But Salinas looked like he had run himself out of room at the touch line. But he spun and turned defender Chris Leitch inside out, then sent a pass to the centre of the area, which Hassli put into the open goal.

Salinas almost added his third helper of the night. His low, dangerous cross was headed just wide by Camilo, beginning a string of chances for both teams that could have, should have, won the game.

Camilo’s bouncing free kick through traffic forced Busch into an excellent save. And Whitecaps’ midfielder Gershon Koffie slammed a shot from 25 yards out off the crossbar.

Meanwhile, Lenhart got behind Janicki and fellow defender Michael Boxall, and had Cannon at his mercy. But he went for power when he should have gone for placement, and his effort went just wide.

It was a wildly entertaining game, and more than a few players will be left wondering how they squandered their chances to net the match-winner.

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