Hoffman taking Union preseason one day at a time

First-round pick hopes to carve out role as rookie striker

Chandler Hoffman’s life has been moving at a lightning-quick pace the past few months.

And it only promises to get crazier.

That’s just fine with Hoffman, Philadelphia Union’s No. 13 overall pick in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft out of UCLA. He likes the pace this way. It’s the same way the forward plays – all out all the time.

“Yes, it has been crazy, but it’s been a great, great experience,” Hoffman told philadelphiaunion.com after a recent training session. “From Birmingham at the Final Four to Fort Lauderdale to Kansas City for the draft back to L.A. then back to Philadelphia, then Florida. It’s been crazy flying all over the place.

“You know what, I’m just trying to enjoy each day and take each day as it comes. I am enjoying it and trying to get better and get ready for the season. I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time. It’s here and I’m going one day at a time to get ready for all the exciting things that are coming.”

The 21-year-old Hoffman, a MAC Hermann Trophy semifinalist, finished his junior year tied for fourth nationally in both goals (18) and points scored (42). He also tied UCLA records for consecutive games with a goal and multiple goal games, scoring in five straight games and registering four multiple goal games.

Hoffman proved to be one of the top strikers in college soccer.

But the challenge increases as he joins the likes of fellow Union forwards Jack McInerney, Danny Mwanga, Josué Martínez and recently-signed Colombian forward Lionard Pajoy.

“It’s completely different coming from college where you’re the top goal-scorer and the top guy on the team,” said Hoffman, a two-time Gatorade Player of the Player in high school in Alabama. “Now you’re back on the bottom of the totem pole and you’ve got guys who have played for the National Team and in huge international games. It definitely helps to play with them and to see how they learn and how they go about training every day.

“That’s obviously important, to keep learning. You have to come prepared for training. It helps when you’re out there playing with them. It helps with the speed of the game. I think after the first couple training sessions, I started to get more comfortable. I scored a couple of goals. I’m confident in my ability, and I’m willing to learn and be patient. We have a great group of guys here and I’m anxious to learn as much as possible.”

Upon arriving for preseason in Philadelphia three weeks ago, a hotel room served as home base for the rookie striker. The only person he knew in the state of Pennsylvania was midfielder Amobi Okugo, who was Hoffman’s teammate at UCLA.

Talk about a life lesson.

“Yeah, Amobi was the only person I knew here in the whole state,” Hoffman said, laughing. “It’s been a crazy adjustment, and I had some nerves at first. I’ve started to settle in with the team and personally. I’m trying to get connected with the guys here as part of my new family.

“I’m just trying to make sure I’m eating right, not losing a ton of sweat and try not to be thinking too much. I’ll kick back, maybe watch a movie and stretch, trying to stay loose. You don’t want your muscles to get too tight. It’s like being back in college in the dorm. I’m taking it one day at a time and I’m trying to stay as prepared as possible.”

Hoffman’s skill has already impressed his teammates.

“Chandler is very fast and very skilled with the ball,” McInerney said. “He was a very good scorer in college. You can see right away how talented he is.”

Despite a bevy of players competing for playing time up front, Hoffman isn't backing down.

“You never know what’s going to happen,” Hoffman said. “Guys can get called up for national team duty, injuries happen and you have to be ready each day. You have to be prepared and know if you’re good enough, the coaching staff will call your name. That’s where I’m at right now, just working hard every day and staying physically and mentally prepared.”