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Eric Hassli says referee Hilario Grajeda told him to "shut up" during Vancouver's 1-0 win over Columbus. Coach Martin Rennie says MLS referees aren't treating Hassli fairly.

BURNABY, B.C. – Eric Hassli is getting a raw deal from Major League Soccer referees.

That was the message from Vancouver Whitecaps head coach Martin Rennie on Monday when asked about Eric Hassli’s reaction when coming off the field in the club’s 1-0 win over the Columbus Crew.

As Hassli exited the match at 0-0, he smacked some glass and looked visibly frustrated – but Rennie says it wasn’t because of the substitution, but because of referee Hilario Grajeda’s handling of the match.

“He wasn’t upset about coming off, he was upset about not getting fouls and he was upset about the refereeing,” Rennie told Goal.com on Monday. “I was too. The way the defenders were marking him, it was a sandwich most of the time – one in front, one behind – there was lots of fouls, tactical fouls, that were never given.

“He was very frustrated about that – he wasn’t frustrated about coming off,” Rennie continued. “He did show his frustration, but it wasn’t anything unprofessional.”

What was unprofessional, if Hassli is to be believed, was the language used by referee Grajeda toward the designated player.

“The referee spoke to me really bad,” Hassli said. “This is why I was upset. I didn’t say anything. I touched the ball with my chest and we argued – I said, ‘no, I didn’t touch it’ and he told me ‘shut up’ so I was really upset.”

But the problem doesn’t stop with referee Grajeda, according to Rennie. Hassli, with his imposing 6’4" frame and his reputation as a bruiser – he picked up three red cards last season – isn’t getting fair treatment from a Vancouver perspective.

The stats back Rennie’s case up. Hassli has committed 21 fouls, and only suffered seven, as decided by MLS referees – quite an unusual ratio for an attacking player.

“It’s ridiculous,” Rennie said. “He’s getting fouled all the time, but because he’s big and strong and doesn’t just fall over, he doesn’t get a foul. Maybe he just needs to start falling down but he’s getting hit all the time from different angles and he very, very rarely gets a foul. That’s very frustrating – they’re not allowed to physically attack him like that when he’s getting the ball, and yet they get away with it week after week, game after game, and of course that does get frustrating.”

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When asked if Hassli’s reputation is playing a part in this situation, Rennie stated last year’s sendings off shouldn’t have any relevance now.

“Unless FIFA have changed the rules, [his reputation] has nothing to do with it,” Rennie said. “He can’t get fouled – in every game it should be what happens in that game. It has nothing to do with what’s happened in the past. Eric’s shown no signs of ill-discipline while I’ve been around, so I don’t see why that would be the case.”

Hassli is on a diabolical run of form in which he hasn't scored a single goal in his last 17 appearances.

 

EDITOR'S NOTE: A previous version of this article stated the referee in question was Elias Bazakos, which was an error. Bazakos was originally scheduled to referee the match, but a change was made the day before, with Hilario Grajeda stepping in.

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