Eric Hassli, then of FC Zürich, celebrates a goal in 2009-10 qualifying for the UEFA Champions League. (Dmitry Korotayev/Getty Images)

Eric Hassli Will Be Vancouver Whitecaps First-Ever Designated Player

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86 Forever: Eric Hassli A Disappointing Designated Player, But Not Necessarily A Mistake

There's no question Eric Hassli lacks the name of, well, almost every other Designated Player in MLS. The Vancouver Whitecaps' newest player has played just one season in a premier European league (Ligue 1), is in the midst of a two-year run in which he's scored just seven goals and doesn't even have the benefit of being Canadian.

So, it's understandable that SB Nation's Vancouver Whitecaps blog, 86 Forever, was initially pretty bummed to learn how much Hassli is being paid and that he's reportedly been signed to a four-year contract. Once the initial shock wore off, though, a more rational line of thinking took over.

Hassli fills a position of desperate need. If he fits into the Major League Soccer environment well then he lifts the Whitecaps from the cellar to a fight for a playoff spot. That's not worth a DP spot? Remember, the Whitecaps have one DP slot left and can buy another one. If three world-class players agree to contracts with the Whitecaps but we can only sign two of them, well, then we'll all feel like idiots, but as we should be able to see from an entire winter of failing to get any world-class players that's not going to happen. If we didn't sign a designated player this year, then we wouldn't get extra slots in 2012. We just wouldn't have a designated player and our team would be worse.

Hassli doesn't necessarily have to be great to be a good signing. If he can score 10 goals, those are probably 10 goals that the Whitecaps wouldn't have otherwise scored. Those could very well be the difference between finishing at the bottom of the table and competing for a playoff spot. Hassli's signing won't win any PR battles, but that doesn't mean it's a disaster, either.

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Vancouver Whitecaps Make Eric Hassli First Designated Player In Their History

News that Eric Hassli was signing with the Vancouver Whitecaps broke early on Friday. But it wasn't until several hours later that it was learned he would become the team's first-ever Designated Player. Exact terms of the deal weren't released, but it was rumored to have been for four seasons.

"As we continue our preparation towards our inaugural season in Major League Soccer, we are thrilled to bring in a striker of Eric’s quality," Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi said in a team release. "There are three types of Designated Players - the marquee name, a young player with upside, and very good experienced technical players. 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."

Hassli is 29 years old and in the midst of his second somewhat disappointing season, having scored just seven goals in his past two years with Swiss Super League side FC Zurich. In 2008-09, though, he scored 21 goals and had 10 assists in 34 matches while leading Zurich to the league title. In three-and-a-half years with Zurich, he scored 36 goals in 115 competitive matches. He also spent 2006-07 with French Ligue 1 side Valenciennes FC.

"It was important for us to bring in an experienced striker," Whitecaps coach Teitur Thordarson said in a team 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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Vancouver Whitecaps Sign Zurich's Eric Hassli, An Actual Forward

The Vancouver Whitecaps appear to have filled easily their biggest need with the signing of FC Zurich forward Eric Hassli. The 29-year-old gives the Whitecaps a player who has at least knows what it's like to regularly put the ball in the back of the net. Although he has scored just seven goals in his past two league seasons, he did score 17 times as recently as 2008-09 in the Swiss Super League.

If Hassli can regain that kind of form, this could be a huge signing for the Whitecaps. Despite their expansion status, the Whitecaps appear to have built a solid defense. Jay DeMerit is a world-class center back with loads of international experience. Alan Rochat, coincidentally a former teammate of Hassli's, could quietly become one of the league's top left backs.

Up until now, there had been a gaping hole up top, with Atiba Harris likely filling that role until 17-year-old Omar Salgado can take over. Harris has mostly played in the midfield and scored just 15 goals in 125 league matches. No other player on the roster has scored as many as 10 MLS goals in their career.

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