When Brett Levis made his Major League Soccer (MLS) debut earlier this month, he proved that a player trained in Saskatchewan can make it to the highest level. Now the question is who will be next?
The answer just might be Thomas Hasal, a young goalkeeper who is about to take the next step on his potential path to the pros.
Like many who play the position, Hasal became a goalkeeper almost by accident. While spending a summer with his grandparents in Toronto, his team’s regular keeper went down with an injury and Hasal was pressed into duty. Soon, he was hooked.
“You get a certain feeling when you make a great save and that makes you want to keep playing,” he explained.
“It’s weird to describe, you kind of have to feel it. It’s like your heart’s being lifted and it’s pure passion in that moment.”
It’s a feeling the high-schooler has been experiencing more and more lately. A member of the Vancouver Whitecaps FC Saskatchewan Academy since 2013, Hasal’s ability to make the big save has earned him a spot in the club’s full-time under-18 residency program.
“It’s a natural step for him. I think we’ve done a good job preparing him but now he’s going to go in and he’s going to be competing on a day-to-day basis for a starting spot or minutes. When he gets those minutes, he’s going to be competing against some of the top teams in North America,” said academy head coach Bryce Chapman.
Not long ago, the thought of a player from Saskatchewan making the jump to the pros seemed more like a dream. But thanks to the trail being blazed by Brett Levis, that dream suddenly seems a lot more possible for other young talent like Hasal.
“It’s amazing. He’s such a great role model. He’s a perfect example of the pathway we have here, coming from our academy and making it up to playing with the first team against a club from the best league in the world,” Hasal said.
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Levis made his MLS debut on July 19 after two years playing for the Whitecaps FC2, in a friendly against England’s Crystal Palace FC. After entering the game as a second-half substitute, he recorded an assist on the tying goal in a 2-2 draw.
While Hasal has a long road ahead of him if he hopes to follow Levis to the big club, he’s eager to prove he’s ready to take the next step.
Playing in the residency program will give Hasal a lot more exposure to the Whitecaps’ top brass.
“You’re always under that first-team eye because there’s a connection between the U18’s, the WFC2 and first team, so there’s just another pressure,” Chapman said.
How Hasal handles that pressure could go a long way to determining whether he can continue to follow in Levis’ footsteps.
“Most of the time you don’t feel too much pressure but it’s great when everyone’s there watching, because they get to see you do great stuff and see you doing what you love most,” Hasal said.