From Saskatoon, to Vancouver, to Costa Rica.
That is the last 12 months in the life of Thomas Hasal. The Saskatoon product is one of two goalkeepers for Canada’s Under-20 men’s national team taking part in a tournament in the Costa Rican capital of San José.
Standing six-foot-two, Hasal, 17, joined the Vancouver Whitecaps’ development program in August after impressing at the Major League Soccer club’s academy in Saskatoon.
In late January, head coach Rob Gale met with Hasal to let him know that he was named to Canada’s roster for the CONCACAF U-20 Championship, a regional qualifier for the World Cup.
“To be able to go from my home in Saskatoon to Vancouver and now represent my country I am truly blessed to have these opportunities,” said Hasal.
Born in Cambriddge, Ont., Hasal moved around in his youth. By age nine, he had also lived in Ottawa, Edmonton and Calgary before his family settled in Saskatoon.
But there is no question of where he calls home. Hasal said he is proud to be one of only a small group of soccer players from Saskatchewan working on a professional career.
“There’s not too many of us. But I think soon there will be more and more.”
Hasal doesn’t have to look far for inspiration. Vancouver Whitecaps defender/midfielder Brett Levis also hails from the Bridge City.
“Seeing Brett come through Saskatchewan and go to Vancouver it really showed if he can do it, so can I.”
Hasal’s selection speaks to his quality as Canada is remarkably deep in the U-20 age group. Four other Canadian U-20 ‘keepers have dressed for professional teams, including highly touted youngster Sebastian Breza, who plays for Palermo in Italy’s Serie A.
“With Canadian soccer going the way it is right now there is so many more youth coming up and I am just honoured to be selected,” Hasal said.
Canada opens the qualifying round of the tournament Friday against Honduras, trying to qualify for the U-20 World Cup for the first time since Canada hosted in 2007.
“We’re all very focused and confident but just taking it one game at a time.”
Canada’s four-team group also includes Mexico and Antigua and Barbuda. Only the top two will advance to the final round.
Hasal joins a Canadian team featuring standouts from youth teams around the world including Dario Zanatta (Hearts, Scotland), Liam Millar (Liverpool, England) and Zachary Brault-Guillard (Lyon, France). Hasal believes his team has the talent and chemistry to take Canada to the World Cup in South Korea.
“We know what to do and it’s up to us to do the job,” he said.