Pay no attention to Antoine Hoppenot’s stature.
The Philadelphia Union sure don’t.
At 5-foot-8 and 155 pounds, the rookie forward is constantly going up against bigger, stronger players. And Hoppenot continues to thrive.
“He’s one of the toughest players I’ve ever seen,” defender Sheanon Williams said. “He fights and scraps for everything. He’s very, very skilled. He’s smart and knows how to finish. He’s just a tough soccer player and we’re lucky to have him.”
Hoppenot has shown this toughness all season, especially after receiving a nasty headbutt by the Montreal Impact’s Nelson Rivas on Aug. 4. It left Hoppenot with a nasal bone fracture, but he continued to play through the pain.
“I guess you could say that,” Hoppenot said. “I have always played hard no matter what level of soccer I was competing at. To me, this is no different. It’s just an advanced level with better players. I’m going to scrap and claw for everything when I’m competing on the field.
“That’s how I play and that’s how I will continue to play. I think in this sport, you have to because all it takes is a second and the game can change.”
Hoppenot has appeared in 13 league matches with one start and he has scored two goals in 405 minutes.
Whether he’s asked to start or come in as a substitute, the task remains the same.
“I’m going to play hard, go 100 percent all the time,” said Hoppenot, who has ripped 10 shots, including four on goal in league matches. “If I’m starting or coming on in the 88th minute, I’m going to give it the same effort. Any player who’s a competitor would want to play as much as possible. I prepare that way.
“This organization gave me a chance, and I want to continue proving to them what I’m about. I mean it that if I play two minutes or 90 minutes, I’m going out there with the same drive.”
The Union take a three-match winless streak into Friday’s battle against Real Salt Lake at PPL Park.
This much we know: Hoppenot will be anxious to compete.
“I always try to make a mark in any game I play in,” Hoppenot said. “As a rookie, you don’t really know what to expect in this league. I’ve gotten some great experience, and I’m feeling more comfortable. But it won’t stop me from working. I’ll keep going at the same pace I always have.
“We have a lot of season left and there’s a lot of soccer left to be played. I’m excited about it and what the future holds.”