There’s still so much to learn and Chandler Hoffman is fully aware of that fact.
But there’s no player who endured more as a rookie with the Philadelphia Union than Hoffman, an immensely talented forward from UCLA.
As a rookie, Hoffman experienced just about everything possible. Taking that experience and channeling it has been extremely helpful as Hoffman prepares for his second season with the Union.
“You think that things will be interesting as a rookie,” Hoffman said after a recent training session. “And then there was me. I went through a lot and I know it made me stronger mentally.”
After being selected with the No. 13 overall pick in the MLS SuperDraft, Hoffman traveled 3,000-plus miles to join the Union. For a while, he didn’t even have a place to live. Imagine the pressure of simply living out of a hotel while you’re trying to impress the technical staff.
Hoffman later suffered through a big toe fracture which sidelined him for an extended period of time. And he was one of at least seven forwards trying to earn playing time.
Like every other player, Hoffman had to work through a coaching change – not easy for a rookie.
But there were a number of highlights, too.
How about the four goals he scored in a Reserve League match against D.C. United? How about the game-winning goal he notched against FC Schalke ’04?
“I think having the chance to score four goals, whatever game it is, helps in terms of confidence,” Hoffman said. “It proved to me that I could do it. I scored in the friendly. I know I can score and I have confidence in my ability. It was great to be able to do it and show the technical staff what I could do. The biggest thing for me was staying healthy. It was an injury that kept me out for a while and prevented me from taking steps forward at a big point in the season. I worked extremely hard in the offseason on my conditioning and my skills and I’m very, very confident coming back this season.”
While Hoffman was sitting out, he was still watching, listening and learning.
“I think you have to as a young player,” Hoffman said. “That’s how you get better. When you’re not playing, you can still improve and get better. I saw things on the field from a different perspective, which always helps. Obviously, I’d rather be on the field in the middle of the action, but I had to be patient.”
Hoffman said he was focused on being aggressive in training while proving his mettle on a daily basis to manager John Hackworth and the rest of the staff.
At UCLA, Hoffman was a MAC Hermann Trophy semifinalist and 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 notching four multiple goal games.
Getting those four goals in a Reserve League match simply continued the trend.
Hoffman has always been an aggressive-minded forward. Even on a club with the likes of Sebastien Le Toux, Jack McInerney, Conor Casey and Antoine Hoppenot among others, Hoffman is focused on showing he belongs among the top tier of forwards.
“I know the type of players we have here, and bringing Seba back, reinforces the competition and the level of players around,” Hoffman said. “I feel very good about myself, and I will work and compete as hard as possible to prove I belong. I’m excited about the season. I feel like I went through so much last year as a rookie. I’m more experienced and mentally prepared for the challenge ahead.”
Contact Union writer Andy Jasner at email@example.com