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Season Review: Antoine Hoppenot’s ups and downs in 2014

Photo: Daniel Gajdamowicz

A successful 2013 loan spell with then elite USL competitors Orlando City helped turn former first round draft pick Dom Dwyer into a 2014 MLS MVP candidate.

After scoring double digit goals in 2014 for LA Galaxy’s USL PRO affiliate Los Dos, former Union first round draft pick Chandler Hoffman was snapped up by Houston Dynamo and new coach Owen Coyle in the Re-Entry Draft in hopes that he might be the next young forward to turn a successful run of games against lower division opposition into a goal scoring burst at the MLS level.

Following the demise of the MLS reserve league, loans to USL affiliates have begun to become prevalent in recent seasons. With the strong current trend towards MLS teams acquiring their own USL franchise in lieu of partnering with an existing program, players in need of minutes for any reason — be it experience, fitness or rehabilitation — now have options that simply did not exist until very recently.

For Antoine Hoppenot, the hope is that this is can be his path forward after his brief 2014 loan spell with the Union’s USL affiliate, the Harrisburg City Islanders. In addition to earning a consistent run of games, Hoppenot became an integral part of an upstart Islanders squad that snuck into the final playoff spot before making an unlikely run to the USL PRO finals, where they fell just short, losing to Sacramento Republic FC.

“It was great to go down there, to be able to play with a group of players that made me feel like one of their own,” Hoppenot recalled.

With seven goals and three assists in the first two years of his professional soccer career, during which time he was used primarily as a substitute, Hoppenot found minutes harder to come by as the Union stumbled out of the gate to begin the 2014 campaign. The situation became even less tenable when Jim Curtin took over midseason, though Hoppenot is quick to deny any rift exists between himself and Curtin.

“Coach Curtin and I have a really strong relationship, and we talk a lot and he made it clear that I’m a guy that he likes,” Hoppenot told PSP.

Hoppenot’s slide down the pecking order came at least partially from circumstance.

“When the transition happened,” Hoppenot explained, “the team went on a little run without me, and it’s kind of tough to break into a team that’s doing well.”

Unable to find game time with the Union, Hoppenot joined a Harrisburg side in the thick of a playoff race. Quickly incorporating himself into the team for whom he had played on loan in 2012, he helped the City Islanders claim the eighth and final spot in the playoffs.

Hoppenot further left his mark when he scored the lone goal in Harrisburg’s shock upset over the heavily favored top seed, Orlando City. Harrisburg coach, Bill Becher sang Hoppenot’s praises.

“Antoine’s come here and he’s embraced it,” Becher told Michael Bullock of Penn Live at the time. “He wants to prove something here. And he’s done that. He’s taken it the way it needs to be taken.”

Now that the year is over and Hoppenot has his sights set back on the Union, he is thankful for those extra minutes he earned while away.

“It’s always good to get games,” Hoppenot said. “As a player, that’s what you want to do, you want to play.”

Hoppenot reiterated, “So being able to go down there and get a lot of games, a lot of starts, was something that I dearly needed, and it was great for my confidence.”

When asked about what element of his game he felt was most improved during his loan, Hoppenot spoke of becoming a more complete player.

“I think my ability to get the ball in front of defenders, before either flicking it on or laying it off. That’s something you can only get from playing games and feeling out the situation. I think that was one of the things where I got back into the routine of being able to check to the ball and laying it off and then trying to make runs forward instead of getting the ball and being able to turn. I think my ability to play with my back to goal is better; it’s something I have definitely improved.”

One thing is certain. When the Union preseason begins, the Union’s attacking group will be bigger and stronger than ever before. Hoppenot will have to prove that, despite his relatively diminutive stature, his pace, ability and confidence in front of goal can justify his place on the roster. With the Union making rumblings about signing a top striker to lead the line with the big bodies of newly-acquired CJ Sapong, Aaron Wheeler and likely, Conor Casey, Hoppenot will be the unquestioned runt of the litter. He is not concerned about his prospects for 2015 though.

“I think Coach Curtin is going to give me an opportunity when the time comes [next] year,” Hoppenot said. “Right now, I’m one of the last guys in that mold [small/quick striker], so hopefully when the situations arise, I am able to take advantage of them, and I’ll be able to get more time.”

Taking advantage will indeed be key, because Hoppenot is unlikely to see many, if any starts, under Curtin. The new Union coach’s preference to play with a solitary, target striker simply does not suit Hoppenot’s game or stature. With plenty of other forwards now capable of shouldering the physical burdens of MLS, it will be Hoppenot’s predatory instincts in front of goal during substitute appearances that will make or break his chances of becoming a consistent contributor for the Union.


  1. I always used to love seeing Hoppenot come in late in the game. His speed would frustrate an already tired back line of whatever team they were playing.
    The guy’s only problem is that is the only person on the Union more gravity-challenged than Danny Cruz. What’s more, the Ref’s are wise to it. Even when he is legitimately fouled, he often doesn’t get the call, which is unfortunate.
    I hope he fits back into the mix next year.

    • Yep. Start staying on your feet, Antoine, and stop looking for a call before you even hit the ground, and good things may happen for you.

  2. My only response to this article is: Chandler Hoffman.

    • Changed my mind: I’m pulling for Antoine Hoppenot as well. And am going to take a positive tact to this article.
      Assuming no more strikers are signed- Hoppenot has quickness and speed and makes good runs and can easily get behind defenders and is a decent finisher.

  3. Where is Union5?

    • Right here. What more is there to say? I hope he is included more on this team because as of right now we don’t have anyone else that is as dangerous against our opponent’s back-line, being a striker that is. This team might need to settle with 2 strikers up top like in the past. Lets face it, the guy can hold the ball up top and distribute as well. Has he been a diver sometimes? Yes. Has he been rightfully fouled and not given the call? Of course. There is no other striker on this team that can make a defense so uneasy. I just hope he gets a chance to be a starter on this team because we will definitely need some fire power up front in 2015 and he can be one of our successful forwards.

      • in a 4-4-2 he’d match pretty well with Sapong I bet.
        wonder what that will look like. Damn, I’m actually a bit excited.

      • Yea Joel it seems they can both hold the ball up top which can always lead to making runs and creating chances. I only hope Curtin is open to having 2 up top.

      • The Black Hand says:

        Hoppenot? I’m not seeing it.
        Given our personnel, I don’t see a 4-4-2 working at all…regardless of the top pair.

      • I’m with you, Black Hand – I don’t see any anything in Hoppenot (or his diving partner, Cruz) to get excited about.

      • +1

      • +1

      • Really Black Hand? You’re forgetting about the Le Toux and Mwanga paring which worked out pretty nicely for us, and also the Hoppenot and Wheeler pairing which could have grown into something special but was short lived due to our coaching decisions.

  4. +2
    Hoppenot should never play for us again ever.
    Isn’t MLS quality.

  5. In 2014…….teams that play in 4-4-2 do so because they don’t have the quality to play 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1, or 3-5-2. The only reason to go 4-4-2….is if you have two stud forwards……..we potentially have one now in Sapong……I don’t see a second one with this squad…….especially Hoppenot!

    • You are likely right– I just find myself being so ridiculously judgmental with this team lately that I am willing to manufacture positivity. At least for one post above.
      4-4-2 is popular nowadays if you are David Moyes and your managing United- oh wait……
      couldn’t resist.

      • hahaha……yup.

      • and watch dude….in 2015, teams with two stud forwards are just going to run a 3-5-2 or a modified 3-4-3……..seems to be the flavor tactically at the moment. I never saw so many squads in a 3 back like I did this past weekend. LFC’s 3-5-2 gave my Gooner’s 4-3-3 fits on Sunday!

      • The Black Hand says:

        Too bad he’s a very poor CB…

  6. For you Hopponot haters, those are your opinions. When’s the last time you’ve seen him start on this squad though? See we judge him only on him coming in as a sub (with 10 min. Or less to go in the match), when this team had a horrible time creating offensive plays that resulted in goals or even opportunities. I say judge when this team can get forward and possess with a purpose because like it or not that was a huge problem last year with this team.

    • If we are playing with one target striker……that could never be Hoppenot. While he has pace…..maybe he doesn’t have the fitness for 90 minutes. I say this because, even with the reserves two years ago,it seemed he never would play a full 90. He would either start the first 60………..or come in the last 30. He also looks like he put on some poundage this past season…..and not in a good way.

  7. Maybe Sapong can be the lone striker we need. All I know is that this past season having the lone striker didn’t workout too well. I think a lot of that has to do with players not being able to finish and not being able to get the ball on target. Hopp. not being fit enough? Again, we the fans do not know these answers.

    • your right, we don’t know the answers. The minutes he gets certainly imply things about him that the coaching staff must see day in and day out. The first assumption would be that he is not a 90 minute man…… strictly based on how the Union use him.

      • Yea its possible. Or they could very well be wrong. They’ve been wrong with a lot of other players as well…..

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