Photo Credit: Jeff Vinnick of The Canadian Press

*This was originally posted on March 10, 2022*

The Vancouver Whitecaps made a surprising move on January 20 by trading goalkeeper and 2021 team MVP Maxime Crépeau to Los Angeles FC for one million dollars in General Allocation Money and a 2025 first-round pick. It was the biggest move for a goaltender between two MLS teams.

For young Thomas Hasal, it was hard to see Crépeau go. At the same time, it opened a door of opportunity.

“My initial reaction was definitely mixed,” said Hasal after Thursday’s training session. “One, it’s a good goalkeeper, good person, a good friend leaving the club. But at the same time, you recognize this as an opportunity for myself and then this is just a chance. I’ve been working for the last few years and for most of my life. So it’s an opportunity that I want to take advantage of.”

The 22-year-old developed through the Whitecaps academy In Saskatchewan. He first made a name for himself in the 2020 MLS Is Back tournament which saw the Whitecaps surprisingly make it to the knockouts before losing in a hard-fought penalty shootout to Sporting Kansas City in the round of 16. Hasal was a huge reason why they went that far and he looks back at the tournament as the launchpad for his MLS career.

“I think I made a huge impact,” said Hasal. “Getting that opportunity definitely put me in the limelight, and definitely gave me the chance to show people that I can play in the league.”

Since then it’s been up and down for the Cambridge, Ontario-born goalkeeper. He has shown flashes of brilliance, particularly last week against New York City FC at BC Place.

“He did a fantastic performance as a mature goalkeeper,” said head coach Vanni Sartini on Hasal.

In that game, there were moments where Hasal wasn’t particularly busy. But when he was, he made sure to step up. He managed to stop all four New York shots on target particularly one in the 88th minute on Thiago Andrade to get the Whitecaps a point against the defending MLS Cup Champions.

“I think any good performance leaves some confidence to show that, okay, I can do it again and I need to, said Hasal on his performance. “I want it to be the standard that I set every week and I want to keep building performance, just like that.”

Hasal was named in the MLS Team of the week for his efforts.

“Definitely welcome to see it, happy for it,” he said. “Same time, you know, we’ve got another week that we’re preparing for a game straightaway. More than anything, I was just happy about the performance myself and the team gave.”

Hasal and the other Whitecaps goalkeepers work with goalie coach Youssef Dahha

“Working with Youssef the last few years have been great,” said Hasal. “We do a lot of positional and tactical work, I think is what changes from the other teams in the league…whether it be aggressive for through balls coming out, or crosses or shot side positioning is a very big focus for us as well as myself. We’ve worked on distribution for the past couple of years.”

Hasal talked about approaching every training session and game with the same mentality regardless of the previous result.

“Whether it’s a good game or a bad game, we say as a goalkeeper; you never want to get too high on highs, you never want to get too low on the lows, you want to say kind of a happy medium,” said Hasal. “So my approach to the game and training would be the same as it was last week after a performance with the team didn’t play as well, to a performance where we played a bit better. At the end of the day, all I’m trying to do is get my best performance by the end of the week. So I want to take the good stuff from that game and make sure I do it again. But at the same time, we look at what other pieces of my game I could improve.”

The Whitecaps are heading to Houston to take on the Dynamo on Saturday. Kickoff is at 3:30 PM.

Hasal will look to build on his game against NYCFC and if he continues to build up the confidence throughout the season, the Whitecaps might have a gem between the goalposts.