Season Reviews

Season review: Antoine Hoppenot

Photo: Earl Gardner

On one level, it would be hard to argue that Antoine Hoppenot didn’t have a good season. He replicated almost exactly his production from a year ago, when he burst on the scene as an electric late-game sub, with the potential to be more than that.

But that’s just it: Hoppenot has played virtually the same season twice. Check out his two-season game log on the Union website. Last year, he appeared in 25 games, starting three, playing 817 minutes, and scored four goals with one assist. This year? 30 games, starting two, playing 732 minutes, and scoring three goals with two assists. Nearly the same number of shots. The same number of shots on goal. There has been no growth, no evolution in his game.

Granted, the return of Sebastien Le Toux, arrival of Conor Casey, and emergence of Jack McInerney made minutes up top hard to come by. However, the new arrivals affected Hoppenot’s game time very little. For most of the season, regardless of the starting lineup permutations, Hoppenot was the first sub off the bench. Game in, game out, regardless of the tactical situation, Hoppenot was given chance after chance to prove he could be a game-breaker, but rarely did he seem likely to do so.

High pointHoppenot 2013 stats

On July 27, away to Vancouver, with the Union lethargic and out of ideas, Hoppenot replaced Danny Cruz in the 67th minute. In the 85th, he combined with Aaron Wheeler to score the game-winner. Not only was the goal important, it was a high quality move and finish, and showcased the best parts of Hoppenot’s game.

Low point

The 1–0 win over Toronto on October 5 is known for the phenomenal Kleberson free kick that won it deep into stoppage time. Yet, had Hoppenot put away any of the three fantastic opportunities that came his way, it never would have been necessary. In most respects, this was one of Hoppenot’s finest showings, as he continuously tore poor Doneil Henry apart with his aggression and speed. But not getting those goals when he could have had a hat trick? That’s got to burn.

Strengths

Athleticism: Hoppenot is one of the fastest, fittest, and strongest players on the Union roster. He possesses a rare combination of athletic gifts.

Aggression/Competitiveness: Opposing teams hate playing against Hoppenot, because he forces the issue constantly.

Dribbling: Hoppenot is one of the best Union players with the ball at his feet.

Weaknesses

Finishing: See “low point,” above.

Variety/Passing range/Creativity: Hoppenot’s main issue is that his primary positive aspects have turned him into a one-trick pony. If he wants to be more than a super sub, he needs to be able to do more than run fast with the ball at his feet or streak into space. He needs to participate in passing moves and find ways to contribute with more than just speed.

Outlook

If  Hoppenot can expand his game and improve his finishing, his potential is great. He may never become a star, but he has the tools to be a consistent scorer in MLS. If all he is is what he’s shown in the last two seasons, then his outlook is fairly mundane. He’ll score a handful of goals a year, earn opposing defenders cards of both colors, and little more. Hoppenot is still relatively young (he turns 23 on Saturday), and perhaps we judge him too harshly, considering the paucity of service all of the strikers received this season. Next season, though, might be make-or-break.

5 Comments

  1. I think the Union will need to make a choice between Hoppenot and Cruz. They’re pretty much the same player (though Hoppenot has more skill, and Cruz has more “grit”). I know Hackworth has a man crush on Cruz, but I really don’t think he can be an every day starter next year, which leaves him and Hoppenot filling the same basic role off the bench.

    • One thousand times this. Hoppenot easily is the more favorable option as well- I think about a third of the price, same output in a fraction of the minutes played.

    • Great point, John. There are tons of similarities between Hoppenot and Cruz.

      Another check in Hoppenot’s favor is that he’s generally recognized as the Union’s best FIFA gamer.

    • Southside Johnny says:

      I don’t know if the Union knows that they “have to make a choice”, but, I agree that they should. I’m not real keen on either one of them, but Antoine came to preseason looking much improved, I thought. If he picks it up again, he could be very good. I worry about his vision as much as his finishing. I have seen too many missed opportunities to make plays and I don’t now think it is selfishness. He seems just too narrowly focused in attack.

  2. I suppose that sounds and smells just about right.

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