Tuesday afternoon the Seattle Sounders announced the signing of Shandon Hopeau to the First Team. Hopeau, 21, joins the Sounders as a USL Championship veteran, having already accumulated more than 5,000 minutes at that level. In addition to his extensive experience in USL with Tacoma Defiance (and formerly S2), Hopeau has also earned 114 minutes with the Sounders First Team through two US Open Cup appearances and one MLS appearance in 2019 when he played against the Colorado Rapids as an Extreme Hardship signing.

During his time in USL, Hopeau’s production doesn’t exactly jump off the page — 8 goals and 7 assists in 5,202 minutes — but playing with Defiance has provided him the opportunity to learn and expand his game. A left-footed player who has transitioned to playing primarily on the right wing, Hopeau no longer needs to be scoring or setting up goals to influence a game. Learning the position playing against other professionals in the USL, Hopeau has integrated a willingness to put in a tackle and a strong defensive work-rate to his game, along with hard, smart runs, a solid understanding of space, and a nose for goal to make for a well-rounded game. His defensive contributions from the wing, coupled with an ability to get in behind a defense and score or create chances for teammates make for a player profile not entirely dissimilar to what Cristian Roldan provides when playing in the same position.

While Hopeau’s overall production with Defiance has been limited, he has taken a significant step forward since the beginning of 2019. In 2019 Hopeau had his most productive season yet with 5 goals and 4 assists in 2,067 minutes. He added another assist in 180 minutes in 2020 before the season was paused while creating plenty of other chances that narrowly missed becoming goals or assists.

He’ll have his work cut out for him as he joins a rather deep group of wide midfielders that includes Jordan Morris, Cristian Roldan (sometimes), Miguel Ibarra, Joevin Jones (again, sometimes), Handwalla Bwana, Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez, and Ethan Dobbelaere. However, Hopeau has demonstrated an adaptability and capacity to learn and improve his game that should serve him well as he works to earn minutes in MLS, and his ability to chip in a goal here and there shouldn’t hurt either. Hopeau’s addition, along with the injury to Will Bruin, may also be an indication that Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez could see more of his minutes as a forward rather than on the wing, as well.

Hopeau, who joined then-S2 in 2017 after moving from his home in Hawaii to spend a season with the Sounders Academy in 2016, represents a version of the vision for what the Sounders development pipeline looks like. Hopeau represents the path for players who join Defiance as teenagers and become seasoned pros at the USL level, rounding out their games and earning necessary experience competing week-in and week-out against grown men in games that matter. Hopeau is proof that with hard work and patience, the path can pay off.

“We are proud of Shandon’s success, and now his massive accomplishment of signing a First Team professional contract,” said Rush Soccer National Technical Director and Hawaii Rush Technical Director Arian Hoxha. “We are so pleased to see a Hawaii Rush player – especially such a special kid like Shandon – achieve his dreams in this game, and we can’t wait to see his continued growth.”

The Kapolei, Hawaii, native played with his local Hawaii Rush Soccer club until 2015, when the then-17-year-old left home to begin his professional career with the Sounders FC Academy in 2016. He was a key attacking piece of the U-17/18 squad that finished third in the USSDA National Playoffs. After making a pair of USL appearances in 2016, he signed a professional contract in March of 2017 with Tacoma Defiance, where he scored three goals in 45 appearances in 2017-2018.

Hopeau is coming off a 2019 USL season in which he recorded career-highs in goals (5), assists (4), and starts (25). The Kapolei, Hawaii native made his MLS debut on September 7 of last season at Colorado, logging 32 minutes as a substitute after agreeing to a Short-Term Agreement after Sounders FC qualified for Extreme Hardship (when a club has less than 14 outfield players or has fewer than two goalkeepers available). He played a full 90 minutes in both of Tacoma’s matches in 2020 prior to the suspension of play, leading the club with five shots and three shots on goal.

“Shandon has performed well in his time with the club and I’m looking forward to officially bringing him into the squad,” said Seattle Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer. “We have a talented crop of young players on our team, and I’m excited to see the energy they bring when we return to play in Orlando.”

Major League Soccer last week announced its schedule for the MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando next month. Sounders FC will play its first match of the Florida-based competition on Friday, July 10 against the San Jose Earthquakes (10:30 p.m. ET/ ESPN, ESPN Deportes), followed by scheduled fixtures against FC Dallas on Wednesday, July 15 (9 a.m. ET / ESPN, ESPN Deportes) and Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Monday, July 20 (10:30 p.m. ET / TUDN).

See the original article here: Sounders Sign Shandon Hopeau