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.
Woodwork wonder .— USL Championship (@USLChampionship) May 30, 2019
Shandon Hopeau wins Week 12's Goal of the Week!#BeChampions pic.twitter.com/JVvrAm9kAk
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.