This year in the USL, just seven players have tallied a combined nine goals and assists. Only one of those seven players is putting up those numbers while carrying an expansion team up towards the top of the table. Antoine Hoppenot, a 31-year-old forward for Detroit City FC, has been one of the stars of the 2022 Championship season, and he just became the fourth player to ever reach 35 career goals and 35 career assists in the USL.
What makes Hoppenot so special, and how did he become an instant icon for Le Rouge?
SPEED & CREATIVITY
Paris-born and Princeton-educated, Hoppenot spent his early professional years with the Philadelphia Union before settling into the lower tiers. He was always productive, but that output certainly grew across more than 70 appearances for Louisville City. Last year, he was one of seven players in the league to tally at least 0.35 expected goals and 0.23 expected assists per 90 – and he did it for a conference finalist.
Still, Hoppenot had competition on the left wing and he only started 16 of 32 games while making 14 extra substitute appearances. Jorge Gonzalez was preferred in each of Louisville’s three playoff matches as well, though Hoppenot appeared in all three.
The writing was on the wall, and Louisville declined the attacker’s option for 2021 despite his productivity.
Meanwhile, Detroit City needed to make a splash as they stepped up from NISA into the USL Championship. Their roster was thin and laden with third-tier veterans with little USL pedigree. So, Hoppenot joined the club a month before the season to provide a burst of proven scoring and nous.
The results have been wonderful. Detroit is a defense-first unit that looks long more than all but four sides in the league, which gives Hoppenot the chance to use his still-searing pace to wreak havoc against foes in transition.
In Detroit’s 3-5-2, Hoppenot operates as the left-sided forward, drifting into the channels to drag opposing defenders out of position and create one-on-one duels for himself. Currently, the ex-Louisville man sits in the 97th percentile for xA and he’s completed more crosses than any other forward. You can see Hoppenot’s xG and xA represented in the visual down below:
When Le Rouge break forward, they feast off late runs into the box from midfielder Maxi Rodriguez and wingback Rhys Williams.
Hoppenot’s movement and pinpoint passing turn those advances into goals.
With Detroit third in the Eastern Conference in points and Hoppenot among the leading scorers and assisters in the league, he surely has to be in any early-season MVP discussions. Detroit have a tough schedule ahead where they’ll have a chance to truly prove their mettle as a contender. If the form carries on and the expansion-season magic continues, Hoppenot is sure to be the reason why.