Hassli makes Whitecaps history

STEVE BUFFERY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:34 AM ET

VANCOUVER — Aging Blue Jays fans will always remember Doug Ault, the first hero in franchise history.

Ault hammered the first home run for the Jays, a first-inning shot in the team’s inaugural home opener at the old Exhibition Stadium on April 7, 1977. He homered a second time in the third as the Jays defeated the Chicago White Six, 9-5.

Well, what Eric Hassli pulled off on Saturday afternoon at Vancouver’s Empire Field was eerily similar to what Ault managed 34 years ago — despite the fact that Hassli plays an entirely different sport.

The Frenchman scored the first goal in Vancouver Whitecaps MLS history, a blazing strike in the 15th minute, and then scored a second time on an open net in the 72nd minute, as the Whitecaps upset the visiting Toronto FC, 4-2.

It was a magical afternoon for the 29-year-old forward. He kissed the Whitecaps emblem on his jersey following his first goal, saying later than it was a totally spontaneous gesture, that he wanted to send a message to the enthusiastic crowd that Vancouver is now his city.

Hassli, who has played in England, Switzerland and France, has only been with the Whitecaps since March 4 and is the team’s first designated player. He laughed when asked about his two-goal output, telling the media that he rarely starts a season with such panache.

“Yes, because I start slowly. Very, very slowly,” he said. “It’s really special, it’s the first victory for the Whitecaps in MLS, it’s a group, it’s 30 people and everybody who works for the club, It’s history for everyone.”

Saturday’s game also marked the MLS debut for 18-year-old Niagara Falls native Russell Teibert, a former member of the Toronto FC academy before finding his way to Vancouver.

The young midfielder played a solid 69 minutes for the Whitecaps, with a number of great crosses and five corner kicks. He played for the Whitecaps’ residency team in the USL Premier Development League in 2009 and 2010 and was called up to the senior team at the conclusion of the 2010 season, signing a contract with the senior club just this past week.

Teibert was plagued with a quadriceps injury for most of last season but stood out at training camp with his excellent passing and speed, which was on display against the Reds.

Toronto fans will likely find themselves thinking about the local boy who got away each time the Reds face the Whitecaps in the years to come.


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