In what has been an incredibly difficult season so far at Schalke, 19-year-old American striker Matthew Hoppe has been a shining light for the future at the Veltins-Arena.
Casual fans of the Bundesliga from across the pond may not have even been aware that Hoppe had moved from the sunny West Coast state of California to join one of European football's most respected and revered academies at Schalke.
And perhaps not even Hoppe would have expected what happened when the striker burst into the Royal Blues' first-team at the end of 2020. Five goals in just three of his first now 10 Bundesliga appearances - including a first ever American hat-trick in the German top-flight - has made Hoppe a household name both in Germany and back home.
"Everything changed so fast probably in the span of a month-and-a-half, two months," Hoppe told bundesliga.com in a Media Round Table this week. "There have been some moments where I've been able to take a step back and look at what's happened. Yeah, it is crazy. Like, my dream is coming true and so it's been special for me."
The forward, born in March 2001, played at the Barcelona Residency Academy USA in the Development Academy Southwest Division prior to moving to the Royal Blues. There, he was moved from midfield into attack when his coaches saw his natural goalscoring ability.
His three goals against Hoffenheim, especially, showed the talent that Hoppe possesses as a natural goalscorer at the highest level, which have even seen him sign a first professional contract until the summer of 2023.
Watch: Hoppe's hat-trick against Hoffenheim
"I think it was something that came naturally to me because I would get a lot of goals growing up and I think I was normally one of the better players on my team," Hoppe said. "When I went out to the Barca academy with Sean McCafferty, I was actually playing midfield, kind of like a No.8 or No.10 position, and then he made me go in at striker.
"I kept saying 'put me back in midfield' but he said I had that natural scoring instinct. I played two seasons there, my first two seasons as a striker, and I was the top scorer in the nation, so I think I had the instinct. Ever since then, I've been able to come here and then develop it. And recently I was able to show it to the world so that’s a special thing for me."
And since the start of 2021, there has been a goalscoring legend for Hoppe to use as a sponge and learn further from in Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. The Dutch forward has made one substitute appearance since returning to Schalke from Ajax on a deal until the end of the season, but he has already made an impact in the dressing room.
"He's been to a few practices and over there he would speak to me and tell me some small things, or big things I can work on," Hoppe said. "It's important for me, and it's cool to have a player that I can just go up to and ask questions to about and try and learn and get better from.
"The thing I've noticed about him is that we'd have a game and then the next day he'd come to the locker room and he'd have five or six pages of notes. He'd talk to players and say what they should be doing, or what the team should be doing better."
Huntelaar may not be able to make the same impact on the pitch he had in his first spell in Gelsenkirchen, scoring 126 goals in 241 appearances between 2010 and 2017, but he can certainly help sharpen Schalke's latest gem who looks ready to help them survive relegation in 2020/21.