Sheanon Williams has seen it countless times in practice, yet he’s still in awe.
Just when an offensive surge seems to be breaking down, Antoine Hoppenot keeps scrapping and makes something out of absolutely nothing.
It happened again in the Philadelphia Union’s thrilling 2-1 victory over the expansion Montreal Impact Saturday night before a sellout crowd of 18,544 at PPL Park.
Hoppenot kept attacking down the sideline and somehow kept a play alive, leading to Lionard Pajoy’s goal in the 82nd minute for a 1-0 lead. Hoppenot didn’t get credit for an assist, but that goal simply doesn’t materialize without Hoppenot’s determination to keep going.
“Antoine’s unbelievable,” Williams said. “We were just talking about how nobody that plays soccer at a high level would have kept pushing down that line on that play. He just kept churning going back, turning, going back … that’s Antoine. He’s stubborn, but effective.”
Hoppenot’s intensity drives some of his teammates crazy – in a great way. That type of work ethic pushes everyone.
“He’s the worst in practice,” Williams quipped before turning serious. “He’s just so fast … he just does things you’re not supposed to do but they work, especially for him. Antoine is a special, special player.”
Hoppenot, the 51st overall in the MLS Supplemental Draft from Princeton, has become a fan favorite with his lightning-quick speed and ability to make things happen. He has two goals in eight league matches and continues to spark the Union virtually every night.
Hoppenot was inserted into the match in the 60th minute. Twenty-two minutes later, the Union had a 1-0 advantage.
“That’s just what I do, what I’ve always tried to do,” Hoppenot said of playing hard. “Whatever it takes to win the game, I’m going to do it. I have confidence in myself and my ability and coach (John) Hackworth has confidence in me which is great. I just come in when called on and try to run and make things happen.
“I come with energy and I know that’s how I always have to play. I’m happy to be getting on the field to make things happen for my teammates.”
In his first season with the Union, he's done just that.
Hoppenot scored 26 goals and added 15 assists in his college career at Princeton, but he slipped all the way to Philadelphia as pick No. 51 in the Supplemental Draft.
“You know what, I’m really happy with the way things worked out,” Hoppenot said. “I’m a big Philadelphia sports fan, and I’ve been to PPL Park as a fan before coming here to play professionally. It worked out for me. I’m happy to be here and playing for the Union. I couldn’t have asked for a better situation.”
The same goes for the Union.
Hoppenot scored his first career MLS goal in a 4-0 win over Sporting Kansas City on June 23 at PPL Park. He added one more against Toronto FC on July 8. And his first ever tally with the Union was the game-winner in a 2-1 victory over D.C. United in the fourth round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup June 5 at the Maryland SoccerPlex in Boyds, MD.
There are surely more goals to come, but all Hoppenot is concerned about is winning.
“Three points, that’s what we need,” he said. “If I can create something to help with the three points, great. I just want us to keep playing hard and keep winning.”