Philadelphia Union's gamble to pull Jack McInerney for reserve striker Antoine Hoppenot pays off
CHESTER, Pa. – Despite the fact that he had already scored two stoppage-time goals against Toronto FC this season, Jack McInerney was pulled from the Union’s third matchup with Toronto in the 57th minute.
The reason? Union manager John Hackworth determined that giving reserve striker Antoine Hoppenot extra minutes would help create more offense in the final stages of Saturday’s critical game at PPL Park.
The move proved to be the right one as Hoppenot attempted a team-high six shots and drew the foul that led to Kléberson’s 95th-minute free-kick goal of the 1-0 win that put Philly back above the red line in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
“Jack McInerney had a job to do, which was to get through the first half and do everything he could to get that goal – and he almost got it,” Hackworth said. “We know that bringing Antoine in with 30 minutes to go was to really open up the game. We thought that was going to be a true opportunity and Antoine got three really great looks. It was unfortunate that we didn’t get one of those in.”
Hoppenot, too, was disappointed that, despite being all around the ball so much, he couldn’t finish any of his scoring chances. His best opportunity came almost immediately after coming on when he blasted one off the post following a great move and feed from winger Danny Cruz.
“Coach told me before the game that he thought this was a great matchup for me,” said Hoppenot, who, until Saturday, had never logged more than 30 minutes off the bench this season. “He told me I was probably going to get a lot of minutes if the game was tied or if we were down, so that I could try to get the team back into the game or get a win.
"Coming in, I knew I needed to create chances," he added. "I did that part, I think, pretty well. Finishing the chances was a problem tonight.”
But the second-year striker more than made up for his missed chances when he made a marauding run down the middle of the field before being taken down by Toronto’s Doneil Henry with nearly no time left on the clock.
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Fellow second-half sub Kleberson then took care of business with a sublime game-winning goal. And between the technical ability of Kleberson and the speed of Hoppenot and Sébastien Le Toux, who also came into the game after the halftime break, it was the substitutes that proved vital in giving the Union their first two-game winning streak since March.
“Conor [Casey] and Jack did a great job in the first half of tiring them out and bodying them up,” Hoppenot said. “You saw Jack a few times go body against body against a lot of guys. That tires them out. When you bring in two fast guys like me and [Le Toux] being able to run at them and run around them, it’s real tough for them to be able to change their pace like that.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at email@example.com.