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Whitecaps take DP gamble on French striker Hassli

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During the MLS expansion draft, Vancouver Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi said the tesm would wait until investing in a Designated Player.

“We felt that we were only going to look at a DP once we have established our core,” said Lenarduzzi just a few months ago.

Lenarduzzi and coach Teitur Thordarson must believe that the core has established itself very nicely over the course of a few preseason games because, on Friday, the Whitecaps announced the signing of a DP — French striker Eric Hassli, who scored 21 goals in 34 games for Swiss side FC Zurich during its domestic championship season of 2008-09. He has scored one goal in five Champions League appearances.

Hassli’s career has been plagued by injuries; but he offers a six-foot-four frame that can dominate the box. Other than a six-goal romp in a win over developmental team AZ Sahuaros, the Whitecaps have looked offensively challenged throughout the preseason.

“There are three types of Designated Players — the marquee name, a young player with upside, and very good experienced technical players,” said Lenarduzzi in a release. “Eric is very much in the latter category; he’s a player who will make an immediate impact and will make us a better team.”

Yes, Hassli isn’t a name that will sell tickets; if he offers the steak, why worry about the sizzle?

It is a gamble, though. That’s the case of any DP who counts as a max cap hit. Hassli, when healthy was a dangerous, arguably lethal, Swiss league, player. But, being great in the Swiss league doesn’t guarantee success in MLS. When Hassli tried to stick in the French league after enjoying success in Switzerland, he went right to the reserves.

But the Whitecaps have faith.

“It was important for us to bring in an experienced striker,” Thordarson said in the release. “Strikers are a top priority for clubs around the world, and therefore difficult to secure. Eric is big, strong, and will give us a physical presence all over the pitch. His addition will complement our team very nicely for the coming season, and I’m very much looking forward to having him in our club.”

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