US Open Cup: Philadelphia Union super sub Antoine Hoppenot "coming full circle" with visit to DC United

The last time the Philadelphia Union played at the Maryland SoccerPlex, Philly fans were introduced to Antoine Hoppenot.

After playing just 26 minutes through the first 11 league games of his rookie season, Hoppenot came into the Union’s fourth-round US Open Cup game against D.C. United a year ago and netted the game-winning goal in overtime.

From there, he became the team’s top striker off the bench, scoring four goals and drawing key penalties that led to other goals.

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So far this season, Hoppenot has only scored once through 273 minutes – but he hopes another US Open Cup game against D.C. United at the SoccerPlex, located in Boyds, Md., on Wednesday night (7 pm ET) can help jumpstart his season, just like it did last year.

“Last year was the first game I scored and it really just started my career on the Union,”  Hoppenot told MLSsoccer.com following Tuesday’s training session. “For me, it was really an important game. So going back down there, it’s kind of like coming full circle.”

Hoppenot, who’s often called a “super sub” because of his late-game contributions, called his start to the 2013 season just “OK” and admitted “there’s a lot of room for improvement.”

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It wasn’t until two-and-a-half weeks ago that he netted his first goal of the year, on what appeared to be a cross in Montreal. But he scored again in a friendly against affiliate Reading United this past Friday and believes “the goals will come.”

“It only takes one,” Hoppenot said. “Some might say it was a little lucky but I was hoping the goal in Montreal would have been the one that jumpstarted me. But now that I got the second one, hopefully it will snowball from there and I’ll be able to get a few more.”

Luckily for the Union, Hoppenot is still a valuable contributor when he comes into the game, usually around the 65th minute. The second-year striker is known for his relentless motor, as well as an uncanny ability to draw penalties and cards against tired opposing players.

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That trait could come in handy against D.C. United on Wednesday, considering the last two USOC matchups between the two rival clubs featured nine yellow cards, four ejections and tons of late-game drama.

“Even if I’m not scoring, when I come in I can do a good job running and trying to create space for other players on my team,” Hoppenot said. “I think when I come in, we score a lot of the time. I don’t know if I’m directly involved, but I think I do a good job of coming in and sparking the team and bringing us a little bit more energy.”

Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at djzeitlin@gmail.com.