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Eric Hassli First Striker Litmus Test For The Philadelphia Union Defense

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This isn't a knock on the Houston Dynamo's rookie striker Will Bruin. The former Indiana University star appears to have a bright future in front of him - which is one reason why I have him in as many fantasy leagues as possible - but he wasn't a true test for the revamped Union defense.

Eric Hassli, however, is a stiker who can force the Union defense into showing what their mettle is truly made of. The 6'4" Frenchman, born in Sarreguemines, France, scored 27 goals in 84 games for FC Zurich before signing with the Vancouver Whitecaps as the team's first ever designated player on March 4, 2011. 

In his first game for the Whitecaps, Hassli scored a brace (two goals) against Toronto FC. No matter how much Toronto has been derided throughout the days leading up to the season, the defense and goalkeeper Stefan Frei still showed that Hassli has the ability to dominate a game if he wishes to do so.

Hassli's size is something that will pose a problem for the Union. Danny Califf is the tallest Union defender, measuring in at 6'1". Carlos Valdes, the 25-year-old Colombian brought in during the offseason to shore up the back four, is only 6 feet tall. Both full backs, right back Sheanon Williams and left back Jordan Harvey, are but 5'11". With the problems that the Union face against the Whitecaps' midfield, which appears suited to attack the Union defense, Hassli will feast if the Union defense does not show the form it had against the Dynamo.

The other problem that Hassli poses is his deceptive speed. Though a big man, Hassli has more than an above average pace for a man his size. In the past, the Union have had trouble with pacey strikers, along with sizable ones, so Hassli, if left unchecked, could provide a weakened Whitecaps team (Jay Demerit is one of a host of players who is either on international duty or injury).

If the Union are able to hold Hassli, and in effect the Whitecaps, then the transactions made over the offseason will prove to have been true improvements for a side that had to wait until the last eight games of the 2010 season to show any defense.