CHESTER, Pa. – After getting headbutted by Montreal’s Nelson Rivas in the 68th minute of last Saturday’s 2-0 loss, Antoine Hoppenot popped right back up and played the rest of the game.
But the Philadelphia Union rookie is now feeling the effects of the hit that earned Rivas a red card.
In the locker room following the game, Hoppenot said his nose began to hurt pretty badly, and back in Philly on Monday he was diagnosed with a nasal bone fracture.
Nevertheless, the reserve striker trained with the Union on Wednesday and should be good to go for Sunday’s game against Chicago at PPL Park (7 pm ET, Galavision).
WATCH: Rivas headbutts Hoppenot
“The fracture Antoine has it not a typical broken nose,” Union interim manager John Hackworth said. “It’s more on the side of his nose from what I understand from the medical staff. He was able to play [Wednesday], only with slight discomfort. He went through full training and we hope he’s fine. … Our feeling right now is he’ll be OK.”
When asked if he thinks he’ll play Sunday, Hoppenot said “definitely.” And it doesn’t look like he’ll need to wear any kind of protective headgear, either.
The rookie’s availability is especially important because starting striker Jack McInerney will serve a suspension after being shown a red card for coming to Hoppenot’s defense and shoving Rivas following the headbutt incident.
“Whether or not Jack would be in the lineup, I think I was going to play anyway,” Hoppenot said. “But yeah, without Jack, we definitely have to find a way to replace what he does on the field.”
Hoppenot has never broken his nose before, and he’s also never before been involved in an incident like this, even though the 5-foot-5, 155-pound striker often deals with defenders much bigger than him.
On the play that led to Rivas losing his cool, Hoppenot and Rivas were jockeying for position with the ball in the air, got tangled up and Hoppenot said he “just tried to shake him off.”
“And I guess while shaking him off, he hit the ground pretty hard and that triggered something in his head that he needed to headbutt me,” he said. “It came as a surprise to me. I didn’t expect it. It’s the first time anyone has done that on the field to me.”
Interestingly enough, Hoppenot – who was born in France – has heard a lot of references over the past few days to the headbutt administered by French legend Zinedine Zidane to Italy’s Marco Materazzi in the 2006 World Cup final.
“Unfortunately in this situation, I’m Materazzi,” he said, “which is not really the guy I want to be.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.