Schalke's American teenager Matthew Hoppe: 'I was obviously surprised but I was ready'

After Weston McKennie and Haji Wright, Matthew Hoppe became the latest American youngster to break into Schalke 04's first team when he started at center forward in Saturday's 4-1 loss at Borussia Moenchengladbach.

Last-place Schalke 04's attack was decimated by injuries and suspensions and promoted 19-year-old Hoppe from its second team in the fourth-tier Regionalliga, where he scored one goal in 15 games. He trained with the first team this week and played 80 minutes in his debut.

“I was obviously surprised," he told, "but I was ready. I've dreamed of this moment and by the grace of God I was given my chance. The most challenging part was trying to hold the ball up for the first time in the Bundesliga."

Hoppe is the fifth American to come through the Schalke 04 youth system in recent years. McKennie, now at Juventus, made his first-team debut in 2017, Wright, now one of the top scorers in Denmark's Superliga, played his first game in 2018. Nick Taitague is still at Schalke 04, playing for its second team. Zyen Jones, now at Hungary's Ferencvaros' second team, left Schalke 04 after playing part of one season with its U-19s.

Hoppe hails from Southern California, where he played for Strikers FC before moving to the Barca Academy in Arizona, where he was the top scorer in the 2018-19 Development Academy's U-18/19 age group with 29 goals in 20 games.

In 2017-18, Hoppe was named to the Development Academy's West Conference Best XI for U-16/17 players that also included Ulysses Llanez, Efrain Alvarez, Leonardo Sepulveda and Kobe Hernandez, all with the LA Galaxy, Real Salt Lake's David Ochoa and Julian Araujo, his teammate at Barca Academy.

Araujo signed with the LA Galaxy in 2019. Hoppe is the third Barca alum to make his first-team pro debut in 2020 after Bryce Duke (LAFC) and Caden Clark (New York Red Bulls).

The Barca Residency Academy was launched by Barcelona in 2017 and is based in Casa Grande, Arizona, at the former home of Real Salt Lake's residential program.

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