SAM WHIPPLE - Tuesday, April 30, 2013
In his second season with the Philadelphia Union, forward Antoine Hoppenot is focused on contributing to the team's success while continuing to improve his own game.
Hoppenot, 22, was drafted in the third round of the 2012 MLS Supplemental Draft by Philadelphia, and has taken on the role of an impact substitute with the team. A four-year standout player at Princeton University, the French-born striker acknowledged needing to adjust to the elevated play in MLS.
"The game's just so much faster in the pros," Hoppenot told Full Volley. "Everyone's just moving faster and making decisions quicker. It's a lot more physical and you're banging bodies a little bit more."
Except for the Union's first match of the season, Hoppenot has featured in every game so far in 2013 under head coach John Hackworth, and has seen measurable growth in his game since entering the league last year.
"I think my ability as a soccer player, the technical, tactically, everything, has just gotten a lot better," he explained. "I'm playing with better players and have people that have been in the league for a long time telling me what I'm doing right and what I'm doing wrong."
After an accolade-filled career with the Princeton Tigers, Hoppenot wasn't sure what the future held for him.
"Coming from college, I didn't know what to expect, whether I'd be able to make it or even get on a team," Hoppenot said, and continued that he appreciates "being able to get an opportunity to play pretty much every game and that [coach Hackworth] has the confidence to put me into all the games."
Now in his second season in MLS, he's taken on a different role than at Princeton, where he was a regular starter all four years. Hoppenot explained that it's a different set of challenges when playing as a sub, where his time to make an impact on the game is limited.
"It's tough not to play 90 [minutes] anymore, but it's so great that I have an opportunity to play pretty much every game," he explained. "It's tough, you know, I'm used to having 90 minutes and if you miss one opportunity you have so much time in a game that you'll have another chance. But coming in as a sub you have to make sure you get every play right and if you have the opportunity, to put it in the back of the net, because you don't know when the next opportunity will come."
It's clear that Hackworth sees Hoppenot as a threat coming off the bench, and the young forward is happy to contribute as the Union's "super-sub" at the moment, but made it clear that he sees himself as a starter down the line.
"I'm happy with my role right now," Hoppenot said. "But obviously as a competitor and a player, you want to be able to play 90 minutes and you want to be the starter that scores a lot of goals. At the end of the day, my aspirations are to become that 90-minute player, but right now, the role that coach Hackworth has me doing, I'm enjoying it and it's what's best for the team."
Hoppenot will look to make an impact this Saturday at home versus Seattle, as the Union aim to rebound from last weekend's loss to New England.