CHESTER, Pa. – When Chandler Hoffman took the field for his MLS debut last Saturday, many of his Philadelphia Union teammates told him to have fun and do all the things that got him to this point.
Easier said than done.
It wasn’t until the second half of the Union’s scoreless draw with Vancouver that the rookie striker said he finally began to play like himself.
“I was playing a little bit too safe in the first half and most of my passes were going negative,” Hoffman told MLSsoccer.com. “At the start of the second half, I did a much better job pushing their line, and I thought we should have grabbed a goal early in the second half. It’s definitely something to build off.”
Hoffman didn’t get to show too much of his newfound aggression in the second half as he came off for Jack McInerney in the 51st minute. But the rookie – who scored 18 goals last season at UCLA before being drafted by the Union in the first round of the 2012 MLS SuperDraft – showed flashes of potential that hold real promise for a side that’s looking for goal-scoring threats.
OPTA Chalkboard: Philadelphia struggle to get into the attack
“Chandler did a pretty good job coming from the outside to the inside as the second striker,” Union manager Peter Nowak said. “The chance he had in the second half, that’s what we’re looking for more of. We’re looking for more of that.”
Hoffman’s start was a surprising one considering he came into the season behind Lionard Pajoy, Danny Mwanga, Josué Martínez and McInerney in the striker pecking order. So far, only Pajoy – who’s played all 360 minutes – seems to have a firm hold on a starting position with the other four battling for that second striker spot.
“People are fighting every day to get on the field,” said Hoffman, adding he had a hunch he might be included in Saturday’s starting lineup because he had a good week of training. “I want to do whatever I can to make sure I’m on the field as much as possible.”
Hoffman believes finishing in and around the box is his biggest strength and said he’ll look to get himself into more dangerous situations the next time he gets on the field.
In the meantime, getting that first start is something he knows will only help with his development as a professional.
“It was an awesome feeling,” Hoffman said. “It was something I dreamed about since draft day and since I was a younger player growing up. So to get my first start in front of this crowd, it was a great experience.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at email@example.com.
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