Matthew Hoppe has joined Middlesbrough from Real Mallorca on a four-year deal for an undisclosed transfer fee.
The lanky and boisterous forward flew through the men’s national team like a comet last summer when he assisted on his debut against Martinique and then scored the lone goal in the quarterfinal match of the 2021 Gold Cup against Jamaica.
But the 21-year-old Hoppe soon faded, rarely playing after his transfer from Schalke 04 to Mallorca a year ago. He made just five appearances (one start) in LaLiga. An injury kept him out of action for two months in the late fall, and he tumbled down the USMNT totem pole up front.
Breaking into the lineup on the wings, one of the USMNT's deepest positions, was always going to be a challenge. But Hoppe hasn’t been called up since the October World Cup qualifying window where he appeared once as a substitute against Costa Rica.
The Californian leaves his Mediterranean island maroon and joins an on-loan Zack Steffen at Middlesbrough in the English Championship, where he’ll look for more consistent minutes.
Hoppe starred at the Barca Residency Academy in Arizona alongside players like Julian Araujo and Caden Clark, leading the Development Academy's U-18/19 age group with 29 goals in 2018-19, its last full season of operation.
The 6-foot-3 Hoppe's success earned him a move to Schalke 04, one of the biggest clubs in Germany. After a year and half with Schalke 04's age group teams, he earned a promotion to the struggling first team late in the fall of 2020. It didn't win its first Bundesliga game of the 2020-21 season until its 14th match, a 4-0 win over Hoffenheim in which Hoppe scored a hat trick.
Hoppe scored six goals in 22 appearances for Schalke, but it was relegated after winning just three of 34 games. His situation was like several European-based players on the U.S. Gold Cup championship team. They returned to their European clubs with uncertain futures after missing all or part of preseason training.
Hoppe's move to Spain was completed the day before the USA opened World Cup qualifying. ESPN reported the transfer pricetag could reach €3 million ($3.5 million), roughly the equivalent of the fee being reported for his move to Middlesbrough.
Around Hoppe in the depth chart at Boro is Englishman Duncan Watmore, Nigerian international Chuba Akpom, fellow summer signing Marcus Forss and 19 year-old Josh Coburn, who scored the winning goal against Tottenham Hotspur in extra time in the 2022 FA Cup round-of-16.
Hoppe's smash-mouth style and fiery personality made him a big fan favorite during his brief spell with the national team. After a lost season at Mallorca, he’ll hope to get his career back on track in the Championship.