EXTRA EXTRA! READ ALL ABOUT IT! FC SCHALKE 04 WIN A FOOTBALL GAME!
That’s right, everyone. After 30 games and almost an entire calendar year, Schalke collected three nice, crisp and fresh points after beating Hoffenheim 4-0 on Saturday afternoon. For the now second Bundesliga side, it was their first chance to smile in a long and miserable year.
They haven’t had much practice, in all fairness. At the center of their miraculous victory was 19-year-old American striker Matthew Hoppe. The teenager pulled off a great hat trick, destroying the Hoffenheim defense to give his supporters an afternoon they will never forget.
The Bundesliga has seen great Americans decorate their pitches in recent years, with Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie two of the latest to become stars on the European stage. But who is Hoppe, and is he ready to be America’s next great product, made in Germany?
Life is full of those sliding door moments, and one of them came very early in Hoppe’s short career. The youngster had pledged to play for the San Diego State University soccer team, but an offer from Schalke convinced him to take the leap.
Hoppe dropped out of college and instead moved to Europe, pushing himself out of his comfort zone as a mere teenager. He took full advantage of this opportunity, however, having broken into Schalke’s first team and now writing his name in club folklore with his wonderful hat-trick.
Luck favors the brave.
If there’s one thing we can be sure of, it’s that Hoppe knows where the goal is. The USA striker showed a clinical finish across the board, and even in Schalke’s youth squad there was evidence of icy blood flowing through his veins.
That brace against Inglostadt was a harbinger of things to come, with his debut goal against Hoffenheim ending in an eerily similar finish, slicing the ball over the goalkeeper with his left foot.
His other strikes were equally glorious, first running on a deep ball to get around the goaltender and rolling home, then arrogantly kicking a straight boot to cut a first finish in the far corner. Overflowing confidence.
OK so may be he’s not a real product of Barcelona’s famous “La Masia” academy, but Hoppe spent two years at Arizona’s “Barcelona Residency Academy”… which is basically the same thing, right?
The academy is associated with the Blaugrana’s Wonderkid factory, and the experience even saw Hoppe spend 2 weeks training in the real Masia academy, where he played alongside some of the biggest names in our sport.
The American picked Ansu Fati as the most talented of all – maybe he has a future as a scout too.
Every player, whether famous or not, has an idol. So it’s no surprise that the man Hoppe admires is Borussia Dortmund forward Erling Haaland.
Only a year younger than the Norwegian robot, Hoppe has already admitted that he studies the attacker’s movement and tries to learn as much as possible from his performances.
With 25 league goals in 25 appearances, there are worse examples to follow, in all fairness for Hoppe.
It was a day of records and non-records for Schalke and Hoppe, as the German giants avoided tying the longest winless streak in Bundesliga history by a match, winning for the first time ever their 31st attempt in a breathtaking 359 days.
While they narrowly avoided one record, another was broken on Saturday. Hoppe became the first American footballer to score a hat-trick in the Bundesliga, writing his name in the history books as an early teenager.
The only way is for Schalke, and Hoppe will take them on this journey.
Incredibly, Hoppe hasn’t always been a striker. Until just a few years ago, the American played as a midfielder, showing his offensive intent from midfield.
Ultimately, his ruthless nature and impressive finish shone, and it was only a matter of time until he was granted his chance to lead the line, an opportunity he seized. with two hands.
Hoppe also likes to descend further from his offensive position, using his experience in both areas of the pitch to hurt defenses. He’s gonna be a star.