Sounders Academy U-18’s newest signing Shandon Hopeau has hit the ground running in Seattle.
Since the state of Hawaii does not have an MLS club, it is marked as a ‘Homegrown territory’ for the Sounders. Hopeau’s direct style of attacking play impressed the Academy scouts and he was duly signed from club side Hawaii Rush.
“We’ve picked up several Hawaiian players, all of whom have made a really positive contributions to the Academy,” remarked Academy Director Marc Nicholls. “We’re excited about the future of Hawaii being our Homegrown territory, and we think that Shandon is the tip of the iceberg in terms of talent that exists on the islands.”
Hopeau joins fellow U-18 standout midfielder Kei Tomozawa as a top talent recruited from Hawaii. Tomozawa earned his first U.S. Youth National Team call up last year after joining Sounders Academy. If Hopeau continues to emulate the hard work and coachable attitude of Tomozawa, then he too could develop into a player that excels on the international stage.
In his brief time with the club, Hopeau has already put in a pair of man-of-the-match performances for the Academy, tallying four of the squad’s seven goals. His displays for the U-18s have been so productive that he’s already spent time training with the first team. Moreover, he even managed to start the final match of the USL season for S2.
“I like it a lot, I feel like [this environment] is where I’m at my best,” said Hopeau. “The Sounders spend a lot of individual attention on the Academy players and bringing them to the next level, so I really like the opportunity that I have with this club.”
Hopeau’s first match came against fellow Washington academy side Crossfire Premier. The crafty winger scored his first goal after blowing by a pair of defenders and unleashing a shot into the top left corner. The second goal was the kind you have to see to believe.
With Seattle protecting a 2-1 lead over Crossfire, Hopeau produced an improvised moment of magic to back heel a deep cross into the top corner of the goal.
“It was just a reaction I guess,” said Hopeau. “I saw the ball go behind me [on the cross] and I guess I just did a Zlatan Ibrahimovic [laughs].”
Hopeau’s world-class strikes and dedication in training earned him a call-up to S2. As a result he missed the USSDA matches against Strikers FC and Pateadores. He returned to the Academy setup for the match against Portland, which was his first taste of the Cascadia rivalry.
“It was a bit nerve wracking actually, just not knowing the competition here,” added Hopeau. “It’s my first Academy season so I didn’t know what to expect.”
If there were any lingering nerves at kickoff, it certainly didn’t show on the pitch. Hopeau looked to take on defenders and combine with teammates every time he got the ball. His eagerness to engage defenders left Portland on the back-foot all afternoon. Despite the opposition goalkeeper playing a great match, Hopeau eventually found the back of the net with two goals from distance. His two strikes handed the Sounders a 2-1 win over their bitter rivals.
“Shandon has made a big impression in his early days with the Academy,” stated Nicholls. “His hard work in training has paid off in his development on the pitch.”
Despite rising up the ranks in a very short space of time, the promising winger recognizes the need to keep working hard and developing in order to achieve his goals.
“My goal is definitely to improve my overall performance on the field and hopefully sign with S2 next year,” said Hopeau. “I’m just excited for what’s in store for me.”