Teenage American striker Matthew Hoppe says he was “surprised but ready” after being named in Schalke’s starting line-up for the first time ever on Matchday 9.
The 19-year-old joined the Royal Blues from Barcelona’s USA Residency Academy in summer 2019, and after a successful season in the U19s he was promoted to the reserves at the start of 2020/21, scoring once in 15 outings in the Regionalliga West (fourth division).
But with Vedad Ibisevic, Goncalo Paciencia, Rabbi Matondo, Amine Harit and Ahmed Kutucu all unavailable to head coach Manuel Baum due to either injury or disciplinary measures, Hoppe was invited to train with the first team in the week building up to their encounter away to Borussia Mönchengladbach on Saturday.
He evidently made quite an impression on Baum, who named him in Schalke’s starting XI at Borussia-Park, where he played 81 minutes of his side’s 4-1 defeat that leaves Schalke bottom of the table and without a win in their last 25 league assignments.
Yet despite the outcome, Hoppe was understandably delighted to have made his senior debut.
“I was obviously surprised but I was ready,” he told bundesliga.com after the final whistle. “I've dreamed of this moment and by the grace of God I was given my chance.”
And he was determined to take it. The Los Angeles native had a hugely encouraging maiden top-flight appearance against, it must be remembered, a Gladbach side that are top of UEFA Champions League Group B ahead of the likes of Real Madrid and Inter Milan.
Watch: Hoppe reflects on his Bundesliga debut
Hoppe covered 6.92 miles (11.14 kilometres), had two efforts on goal, teed up a teammate for a shot and completed 70 per cent of his passes.
“The most challenging part was trying to hold the ball up for the first time in the Bundesliga,” he admitted. “We have to be organised at the back, have fewer errors and take our chances going forward.”
His next opportunity could come on Sunday 6 December in what would be an equally tough encounter at home to in-form Bayer Leverkusen on Matchday 10.