Vancouver Whitecaps goalkeeper honing skills back home in Saskatchewan

Whitecaps' Thomas Hasal (left) at a team training session in Vancouver, B.C., in January 2019. Bob Frid / Vancouver Whitecaps

Professional soccer player Thomas Hasal, 20, is back in his hometown of Saskatoon waiting and trying to stay sharp for any possible chance of the 2020 Major League Soccer (MLS) season restarting.

The backup goalkeeper for the Vancouver Whitecaps FC had begun his second regular season in the league when the novel coronavirus pandemic struck the pitch in March.

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“We were two games in and we just came off a big win against [Los Angeles FC] and the week before that we had our home opener… Everyone was really into it. We were all fit, sharp coming off a big win, ready for the rest of season when all this hit,” Hasal said on May 14.
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“It was tough. It was hard… we put in a lot of work for a good portion of almost two months at that point, especially coming off a big win. I think the team was in a really good spot and we were looking forward to playing Colorado [Rapids] that weekend and they cancelled it just two days before.

“But obviously… it was the right thing to do. To make sure everyone was safe. Protect our safety, our family’s safety, the safety of the fans — everyone.”

With league play suspended due to the virus, Hasal packed up and came to stay with his family in the Bridge City.

“To come back, it’s a bit… I guess easier and a bit better. There are more things I can do here rather than in an apartment in Vancouver,” Hasal said.

“It’s better to do it with family than to do it alone… it’s been the best spot to do it, I think.”

Although born in Ontario and proud of his parents’ roots in Czech Republic, Hasal said he’s a Saskatoon boy and people still find it interesting that he’s a professional soccer player from Saskatchewan.

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“Yeah, they do. When I first went over [to B.C.]… I was also kind of the first-ever in the [Whitecaps’] academy from Saskatchewan at that point. So we all talk about it,” he said with a laugh.
“[Saskatoon] is where my family’s from. It’s where most of my friends are. I guess it’s where I feel like I grew the most.”

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While in the Bridge City, he said his MLS club has been meeting about three times a week via Zoom.

“We also have workouts from our physical preparation stuff… So here in Saskatoon, I’ve got a bit more than I would in Vancouver,” Hasal said.

“A lot of running, a lot of footwork, just to stay fit and then go to the field almost every day individually just to work on things that I wouldn’t normally get the chance to work on.”

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Whitecaps FC announced on May 12 that health authorities and infectious disease experts approved its plan to move into the first phase of returning to play with players having the opportunity to conduct voluntary individual workouts at the club’s outdoor training fields.

“We just started individual workouts this week after talking with the staff in charge of it. They said that it would be good [for me] just to stay home a little bit longer,” Hasal said.

“There’s more I can do here at this point. And then as soon as we can train with, even just one other person, I’ll be straight back in Vancouver, ready to train again.”

Vancouver Whitecaps goalkeeper Thomas Hasal came back to Saskatoon to stay sharp for any possible chance of the 2020 MLS season restarting. Thomas Hasal /Supplied

Hasal said there’s been talk about starting the 26-team league up again; however, details are still up in the air.

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“Things are just changing so quickly but [the club’s] keeping us up to date,” he said.

“Of course, safety is everyone’s main concern right now. But we all just have to get back playing… probably would help fans. We’re looking at going to Orlando, Fla., to play kind of a mini-tournament. So that’s a possibility at this point.”

Hasal played his youth soccer with the Saskatoon club Aurora SC and also represented Canada at the U-18, U-20, and U-23 levels.

Click to play video: 'Waiting game for Saskatchewan Rush players' Waiting game for Saskatchewan Rush players
Waiting game for Saskatchewan Rush players – May 14, 2020

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

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Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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