Settled into pro life, Union's Hoffman eyes larger role
CHESTER, Pa. -- It took a while, but Chandler Hoffman’s whirlwind life is finally calming down.
But that hardly means Hoffman is slowing down. Quite the contrary, actually.
Hoffman is working harder than ever.
As a rookie with the Philadelphia Union, he quickly discovered what it meant to maintain his place in Major League Soccer. The work is ongoing, but at least he’s settled personally.
“The toughest part is every week fighting for your job, fighting for your position to get in the 18,” Hoffman told philadelphiaunion.com after a recent training session. “Going through that rough patch, not playing, not being able to control the outcome really but still having to face all the effects as a rookie was mentally challenging. That’s been the hardest part -- helping the team in any way I can, despite the circumstances.”
Following the 2012 MLS SuperDraft, Hoffman -- a Generation adidas player who was selected with the 13th overall pick out of UCLA -- moved 3,000-plus miles to the East Coast to become a professional. He was on his own.
“That’s been tough,” Hoffman said. “I use as many resources as I can , whether it’s friends on the team or just calling my parents and talking to them or calling close friends from college or high school and just laying it out there how I’m doing. If I’m frustrated or if things are going well, I just try to stay level-headed.”
In just a few short months, Hoffman has come a long way in more ways than one.
“I’m settled now,” he said. “I have an apartment. I live in the same complex as some of the other guys, and it’s nice to hang out with them. It’s completely different, making a whole new set of friends, trying to get as close to my parents when they come up and really trying to make myself at home. Being settled off the field has helped a lot. I can go in and focus on my work because it takes an incredible amount of work each day to succeed in this league.”
Hoffman’s playing time has been sporadic, though he already has earned one league start. Possibly his biggest personal moment thus far was a game-winning goal in the 88th minute against FC Schalke 04 May 9 at PPL Park.
That goal was a major boost to his confidence.
“They’re a great team, did really well in the German League, playing in the Champions League,” Hoffman said. “They had most of their starters, and it definitely affirmed what I believed in that I could score goals and do well at this level. I’m hoping this translates to scoring more goals in MLS or Open Cup or whatever it may be. But I think that goal helped me so much. It’s always good for your confidence level when you score against a great club.”
Looking ahead past Philadelphia's upcoming games against Kansas City, Harrisburg and Houston, the Union will take on the LA Galaxy July 4. Hoffman isn’t sure if he’ll travel for that match, but he’s hoping to be present at The Home Depot Center, a short car ride away from his alma mater.
“I can’t wait,” said Hoffman, who trained with the Galaxy in the summer of 2010. “I’ve already got a bunch of friends who have tickets and said they’re going to be there. Hopefully, I’ll be on the travel roster and be there for that. I want to be there more than anything.”
For now, he’s simply continuing to put in the hours at training. Seeing how his teammates prepare has pushed him to another level.
“Just seeing the incredible amount of hard work that goes into it was something I noticed right away,” Hoffman said. “I think a lot of people kind of overlook that aspect but even when things aren’t going well, you’re still having to bust your butt every day. Even when things are going well, you bust your butt to try to get better. Kind of the most eye-opening thing is how much work each guy puts in, even the guys who aren’t playing. You have to come in every day ready to work as hard as you can to fight and scrap for your spot on the club.
“I think it definitely pushes you when you see others working like that in training.”
Hoffman has seen plenty as a rookie in MLS – player movement, organizational movement, ups and downs on the pitch. Through it all, he has continued to stay as even-keeled as possible.
“It’s been crazy coming in and, obviously, we’ve had a lot of changes in the roster,” Hoffman said. “We’ve had some disappointing results. For me, personally, it was awesome scoring the game-winner against Schalke. Obviously, I want to be on the field more, so dealing with that as well, it’s been kind of a roller-coaster of emotions. I’m just trying to soak up as much knowledge as I can from the older guys and just trying to improve as a player.
“And I feel like I’ve really improved as a player. I’ve been gaining confidence. I’m a player who I feel can definitely help this team and help this organization moving forward, so I just want to take every chance I get whether it’s coming off the bench, Open Cup games, anything I can to improve as a player and help this team.”