CHESTER, Pa. – As Philadelphia Union rookie Chandler Hoffman walked into the tunnel at halftime of Tuesday’s Reserve League game, he got some advice from the only two fans sitting in the River End section of PPL Park.
“Good first goal,” Union teammates Zac MacMath and Amobi Okugo told him. “Now go get a hat trick.”
Hoffman did that and more, scoring four times in the Union’s 6-0 rout of D.C. United in Reserve League action.
“It was definitely a great experience,” Hoffman said. “I want to get on the field in any way possible, so I don’t think there’s any better way to make a statement than putting in four goals in a reserve game.”
Of course, the Union rookie would have preferred to get his hat trick in league play – and in front of more fans than just MacMath, Okugo and other Union teammates (the game was closed to the public). But in the near-empty stadium, the rookie provided a glimpse of why he was the team’s first-round pick in the 2012 SuperDraft, making smart runs all afternoon and finishing as well as he did at UCLA, when he was among the nation’s leaders in goals.
Hoffman scored off a first-half feed from Roger Torres, before adding three tallies in the second half against a young D.C. side, including an 84th-minute penalty kick. He probably could have finished with at least six goals, if not for a couple of big saves from D.C. goalkeeper Joe Willis.
“Chandler has a one-track mind,” said Union assistant coach Brendan Burke, who heads up the reserve team. “He just wants to score goals. You see that when the penalty came up, he grabbed the ball. There’s no letting an academy kid get one. That’s just not in his nature – which is great. That’s what you want out of a center forward.”
Burke added that performances like these could help young players earn time with the first team – something that Hoffman hasn’t gotten much of this season. He’s played just 198 league minutes and has yet to open his official MLS account, although he has scored in a multiple friendlies and reserve games.
Hoffman admitted that sitting on the bench has been frustrating, especially during the team’s serious scoring drought through August and half of September.
He hopes for more in the final week of 2012 and into 2013.
“For me personally, it’s been tough because all of my life I’ve been a goalscorer,” he said. “And this year it’s been a common theme that we need a goalscorer. So it’s been very tough to have to sit back and not get as many opportunities.
“I’m just trying to put together a good résumé where the coaching staff feels they can trust me to score in first team games.”
Four goals in one game certainly helps with that.
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.