Why Matthew Hoppe is thinking about home as Hibs striker speaks on United 26, moving to Europe, and Middlesbrough
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With that amount of experience despite his relatively tender years it is little surprise that the on-loan Middlesbrough forward takes everything in his stride. Leave the Riverside on loan just days after coming back from international duty? Not a problem. Step up and replace the likes of Kevin Nisbet and Élie Youan? Fine. Pack up and move 5,600 miles from California to Germany? Whatever it takes. It’s partly why the stop-start nature of Hibs’ campaign hasn’t discombobulated him too much.
“Yeah, it’s been a little weird. We have one game a week and sometimes one every two weeks but I’ve always been pretty good at maintaining my fitness so I’ve just got to do what I can with the gametime I've been given and keep trying to improve on and off the field,” he says, previewing Sunday’s trip to Tannadice to face Dundee United on cinch Premiership duty.
“The biggest reason behind coming to Hibs was gametime; to be able to get minutes here has been amazing and it has allowed me to see aspects of my game that I have to work on. I just need to sharpen those up and maybe get a few more goals and then we’ll see what happens.”
Boro boss Michael Carrick has spoken a lot about Hoppe since sanctioning his loan switch and having spent time on loan himself during his own playing career, was well-placed to advise the American what was best for his career.
“He has been super encouraging,” Hoppe agrees. “He knows how to get the best out of players so it’s nice to hear even when I’m not there but I have to focus on what I’m doing here, doing the best I can with this club. It was a mutual agreement. I would go up to him a few times a week to ask what I could do to improve, what I could do to get on the field, and he could see I was hungry and didn't want to hold me back so he said if I wanted to stay I could, but if I wanted to go, I could go.
" As a player I want to get out on the field and do everything I can to improve and he understands everything I went through. I think he appreciates that I want to take these steps to advance my career and develop as a player.”
Hoppe believes as a young American player in Europe, he has to work harder to make an impact – but he wouldn’t have it any other way, having targeted a move to the continent from early in his career.
“Europe has the best soccer in the world so to be in this environment every day it pushes you to be better. It’s important to be here. When I was in Germany I was in the second team and my contract was going to end in the summer and I wasn't getting starts. I think I had one start in 20 games but then I hear I am training with the first team on the Monday and then I was starting for the first team on the Saturday so it all changed in the space of one week. It shows anything is possible, you just need to keep working hard.”
With the USMNT, Hoppe has shared dressing rooms with Americans with plenty of club experience in Europe – such as Sergiño Dest, Weston McKennie, and Timothy Weah – and sought opinions from a number of players before taking the plunge. But he is starting to see a flow of talent heading in the other direction.
"I spoke to a few players,” he explains. “I have a great agent as well who helped and all the clubs I have been to have been really supportive of me. At Schalke they put me in a good team house and took care of me and the coach took care of me. All my clubs have taken care of me and made me feel at home. It’s hard to be away from the States and family all the time but it was my decision and my sacrifice and I hope to become the best player I can and make as much of an impact as I can in any time I’m at or any community I’m a part of.
“But right now there’s a lot of top European talent going to the MLS so I think in four years the league will have improved and in ten years from now…? The league has grown a lot and there’s a lot of good talent in there and a lot of young players coming up so they will have to make that decision, whether they want to come to Europe or stay in the States but, for me, the right decision was to come to Europe.”
The 2026 World Cup, being jointly-hosted by the USA, Mexico, and Canada is ‘at the back of his mind’, but Hoppe is also wondering if it might be time to find a more permanent home, having bounced around from the States, to Germany, to Spain, to England, and now Scotland in just over three years.
“It would be nice but at the same time this is the life of a soccer player,” he says. “A lot of things aren't in your control so the most important thing is staying consistent, no matter where you go. I’ve learned a lot about different leagues, and playing styles, and formations, and as a player I can now adapt to a lot of things and play different positions which in one sense is good. But in another sense, it would be nice to focus on one thing as a player.”