Tom Heinemann: Hair Apparent

For 504 days, Eric Hassli was known as Vancouver’s Big Man. At 6’4” and 200 lbs it was not hard to see why. In just over 42 matches (defined as 90 minutes on the pitch), he scored 18 goals, made 6 assists, drew 15 yellow cards, and 3 red in all competitions. Though his time in Vancouver was short, it was memorable. His goals against Seattle, San Jose, and Toronto won’t be soon forgotten. But such efforts do not come cheaply. For his services, Eric Hassli was paid around $1.5 million dollars before his transfer to Toronto FC in July of 2012.

Stepping into his shoes and adorning the number 29 that Hassli made so iconic will be American Tom Heinemann. At 6’4” and 180 lb they should fit him nicely, though he will present a slightly slimmer figure than the Frenchman did.

Tom Heinemann captains the Vancouver Whitecaps FC against Seattle Sounders FC in the MLS Reserve League at Willoughby Community Park on 7 July 2013.

In comparison to Hassli, and adjusting for equal minutes on the pitch, Heinemann would have scored 9 goals, made 2 assists, drew 11 yellow cards, and no reds against MLS opposition, and all at a fraction of the price. Over the same period of time, Heinemann, who is six years Eric’s junior, earned a paltry $70,000.

Although their salaries won’t be published by the MLSPA until the middle of May, one can assume that Heinemann is something of a bargain, especially in light of the fact that he missed almost the entire 2012 campaign due to injury. When we spoke to him about it, he had this to say:

"Reluctantly, yes. I’m trying to put that in the past. I had micro fracture knee surgery, its eight to twelve month recovery, so I had that done the beginning of last year. I’m towards the end of that recovery now, getting strong, getting fit, and feeling good."

Born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, Heinemann is of German heritage, and holds dual citizenship. Speaking to us of his home town, "Yeah, it’s a big place, kind of old fashioned. It’s a very popular place, everybody else always talks about it, a lot of good restaurants, a lot of good Italian restaurants. I actually had a cousin who was in the movie Game of Their Lives."

Camilo Sanvezzo embraces Tom Heinemann after scoring at BC Place on 18 May 2013.

He is of course referring to the depiction of the 1950 United States Football Team. A group of amateurs from St. Louis and Boston who beat England, the best team in the world and every one of them paid professionals, 1-0 in a World Cup Group Stage fixture. To put that into a modern context, that would be the equivalent of India doing the same thing to Spain in 2014.

Tom Heinemann runs around the pitch at the Burnaby Lake Sports Complex on 21 January 2013.

Although he’s scored against the likes of Toronto, Real Salt Lake, and Colorado Rapids, none have been more important than his goal against the Montreal Impact in the second leg of the 2010 NASL Championship Semi-Final.

"That was a very fun time for the team. The RailHawks were part way to the Championship. Unfortunately, we didn’t pull it out in the end, but it was a good run. It was a very fun goal. We were down 1-0 on aggregate coming into that game, and then I think actually Brad Rusin scored the tying goal in the 70th minute. And then the last minute winner, that was fun, probably the most fun goal I’ve ever scored."

Like a lot of the new players, Heinemann has a lot of character and comes with a willingness to adapt. He’s here to play, wherever and whatever that means, he’s ready to try.

"I like to play wherever the coach puts me. Whatever the manager sees fit, whatever formation he thinks is best for the squad to compete, I’m ready to do that. I’m not a guy who’s going to say I want to do this or that, whatever he wants, I’m here. I think part of being a player you have to learn to adapt to anything. You try to bring your strengths to whatever’s best for the team."

Brad Knighton (deep sea) and Tom Heinemann (arbutus brown) add some colour to the white of BC Place on 27 October 2013.

"Preference wise, I like playing with a lot of service. Obviously, I like being in the box, finishing chances. It’s all dependent on the players that you have, and whatever the manager seems to think is the best."

And he’s hungry too. Spending a year of one’s life resting and recuperating will do that to you.

"First and foremost, our goal is to win a championship. I think that’s the goal. If you ask any guy out there, that’s what they want to do, and that’s my goal too. I want to contribute in any way I can, hopefully score some goals while we’re at it. Obviously, get back to the playoffs, win the Supporters Shield, I know we’ve got the Cascadia Cup too. We want to win that, we want to win everything."

Los Angeles, Portland, San Jose, Toronto, consider yourselves on notice. We are coming for your silverware.