Matthew Hoppe (c.) has been as clinical as they come for Schalke in 2021, but where does he stand alongside Josh Sargent (l.) and Bobby Wood (r.) among the Bundesliga’s best American forwards? - © imago images
Matthew Hoppe (c.) has been as clinical as they come for Schalke in 2021, but where does he stand alongside Josh Sargent (l.) and Bobby Wood (r.) among the Bundesliga’s best American forwards? - © imago images

Is Matthew Hoppe the most promising American striker in Germany yet?


Americans have a long history of playing in the Bundesliga, but in record-breaking 19-year-old Matthew Hoppe, Schalke have a striker who could well be on a trajectory to surpass them all.

That may sound like a stretch on initial inspection considering the California native has only played 527 minutes of senior football to date, but it is no less worthy of consideration.

Called up to the Schalke first team from the reserves in November last year owing to the absence of fellow strikers Goncalo Paciencia and Vedad Ibisevic, and with Benito Raman struggling for form in a side at the foot of the table, Hoppe made his debut in a 4-1 defeat away to Borussia Mönchengladbach on Matchday 9.

Two substitute appearances and another start followed in the ensuing weeks, but he was unable to score and the Royal Blues kept losing. So far, so ordinary.

Watch: Hoppe - Schalke's new hope


All that changed on 9 January when Hoppe scored a sensational hat-trick to end Schalke’s 30-game winless run in a 4-0 thrashing of Hoffenheim on Matchday I 15, though – just one match shy of equalling the league record. In doing so he became the club’s youngest-ever player to hit three in one game, the first American ever to do so in the Bundesliga, and third-youngest of any player in the league’s history.

So, was it a fluke? A one-hit wonder? Far from it. The Schalke No.43 was also on target in subsequent outings against Eintracht Frankfurt and Cologne, taking his tally so far to five goals in eight games.

Scratch a little deeper, and the evidence mounts that this is no mere purple patch destined to fade, but a player of real quality. Consider the people he is scoring past: Hoffenheim goalkeeper Oliver Baumann was called up to Joachim Löw’s Germany squad in September 2020, while his Frankfurt counterpart Kevin Trapp already has five caps for Die Mannschaft.

Then there are the goals themselves: chips, dinks, going around the goalkeeper, toe pokes and poacher’s finishes, three with his right foot and two with his left. That kind of variety would make any striker proud. In fact, the only forwards as prolific as Hoppe in the Bundesliga in 2021 are Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski with six, and Eintracht Frankfurt’s Andre Silva, who also has five.

Watch: Hoppe's hat-trick against Hoffenheim

While the youngster is still some way from being in the same bracket overall as those two – he has only won 34 percent of all duels, completed 71 percent of all passes and has a relatively low top speed of 19.5 mph, for example – he is absolutely clinical in front of goal.


Hoppe only averages 2.6 shots per goal, has converted all three of his clear-cut chances this term, and has scored more goals on the counter (three) than any other player in the league.

His value on the field is undeniable, then, and his breakthrough has come at a time when Schalke needed it most. Currently bottom of the table, eight points off the relegation play-off spot and 10 adrift of outright safety, they have conceded more goals (48) and scored fewer (14) than any other side.

Yet with Hoppe responsible for five of those – or 36 per cent of the total – there is still cause for optimism at the club that they can turn things around.

Watch: Hoppe: "I'm hopeful we'll stay up"

“I don’t know if something like this has ever happened before at Schalke, that a player comes in and scored five times in 14 days,” said head coach Christian Gross recently.

“I’m impressed with how much effort Hoppe gives for the team, how he gives 100 percent for Schalke. He’ll continue to develop and he’ll get better, that’s for sure. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar can help him progress. Matthew will definitely learn a lot from him.”

In terms of pure numbers, no other American striker to have laced up their cleats in the Bundesliga can match Hoppe, although he will face his closest challenger in that regard on Matchday 19 this Saturday when Schalke take on Josh Sargent and Werder Bremen.

Sargent major

Sargent himself has long been touted as the USA’s leading forward for the next decade, and he gave timely reminder of his credentials at the weekend with a stunning goal in Bremen’s 4-1 win at Hertha Berlin.

The swerving, 25-yard strike itself was eye-catching enough, but his aggression and the way he shielded the ball from Matteo Guendouzi – a senior France international, no less – before turning him and shooting should not be overlooked either.

Watch: Sargent's stunner against Hertha on Matchday 18

Now in his third full season at Bremen, that goal was Sargent’s second in the league this term (alongside two in the DFB Cup), and eighth overall in 55 Bundesliga games.

Sargent was himself a record breaker as a Bundesliga fledgling, scoring within two minutes of coming off the bench on his league debut in December 2018, becoming the fastest Bremen debutant ever to find the net.

Goals have been a bit harder for him to come by with Werder subsequently – in part due to the team’s struggles near the bottom of the table over the past couple of years – but his importance to the team is without question.

Sargent has started 16 of Die Grün-Weißen’s 18 league games this term, only missing out on Matchday 9 due to injury and coming off the bench against Hertha having been rested following two games in the previous seven days.

And while Hoppe is a cold-blooded finisher, Sargent brings plenty to the table besides. In addition to providing two assists, he has contested more challenges than any other Bremen player in 2020/21 (398), winning 44 per cent, averages a team-high 29 sprints per game and has good acceleration (top speed of 20:45 mph / 32.9 kmh).

Watch: Sargent's wondergoal against Augsburg last season

“It's unpleasant to play against us and it's difficult to find space,” commented Bremen head coach Florian Kohfeldt earlier this season. “That's had a lot to do with Josh.”

Clemens Fritz, a former Bremen midfielder who now leads the club's professional football department, put it in even more concrete terms: "Josh is extremely important for our team. The amount of work he puts in, the stability he gives us in terms of defence - I've been really impressed by the way he's executing all that. We need that intensity."

USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter is also a fan, and Sargent’s return of five goals in 12 international outings, including a strike on his senior debut against Bolivia in May 2018, is respectable for anyone, let alone a forward who only turns 21 in February.

Wood for the trees

So if Hoppe and Sargent lead the way for American strikers in the Bundesliga, who else has been in the running? Bobby Wood has spent his entire professional career in Germany, but only three of his 12 seasons in the country have come in the top flight.

Hamburg forward Bobby Wood has 13 goals in 45 games for the USMNT. - 2019 DFL

After cutting his teeth at 1860 Munich in the second division and scoring three in nine appearances for Aue in 2014/15, the Hawaii native looked to have broken through the following campaign, posting 17 goals in 31 games for Union Berlin.

That form earned him a move to Hamburg, where he scored five times in 28 games in his maiden Bundesliga campaign. In total the 28-year-old was on the scoresheet 10 times in 72 Bundesliga outings, at a rate of one every six games on average. After a spell on loan at Hannover, Wood is back at Hamburg, but is yet to register a goal in 11 Bundesliga 2 games this term.


Before him, Landon Donovan was on the books at both Bayer Leverkusen and Bayern Munich, and despite his promise – and ability to carve out a successful career elsewhere – he never scored in the Bundesliga in 13 outings.

Donovan only had a brief stay at Bayern Munich alongside Franck Ribery and Co. in 2009. - imago sportfotodienst/imago sportfotodienst

Julian Green also showed glimpses of his ability at Bayern, although he never actually played for the Reds in the Bundesliga.

He did play five times for Hamburg in 2014/15, albeit without scoring. Since then the 25-year-old, who has four goals in 15 caps for the USA, has settled in the second tier at Greuther Fürth, where he has 16 goals in 93 games having moved from centre forward to central midfield.

All of which serves to underline just how successful Hoppe and Sargent have already been in the Bundesliga as the two American hopes prepare to meet for the first time this weekend.