Antoine Hoppenot (left) and Lucky Mkosana have new homes for the remainder of the 2019 USL Championship season after being traded on Thursday night.
Thursday night’s trade between USL Championship Eastern Conference rivals the Tampa Bay Rowdies and Louisville City FC that sent Antoine Hoppenot to the defending USL Cup champions and Lucky Mkosana to the Rowdies has the feeling of one that should be a win for either side as they prepare for the second half of the regular season.
For Tampa Bay, the return of Mkosana for a second stint with the club brings an attacking piece that should thrive in the width-driven attack that will play to his attacking instincts in the penalty area that have made the Zimbabwean a dangerous forward for the numerous clubs he has suited up for in his career. With Brandon Allen departing this week for Memphis 901 FC, Mkosana will provide solid cover for current forward pair Sebastian Guenzatti and Juan Tejada, with it now known the latter will go on international duty next month with the Panama U-23 National Team.
For Hoppenot, Louisville will offer a fresh start after a short stint with the Rowdies that saw him make only three starts in nine appearances for the club while Andrew Tinari got most of the action in the playmaking role the Rowdies have employed this season. That Hoppenot will be reunited with John Hackworth – who has a familiarity with the French native from their time together at the Philadelphia Union – should help the transition to his new surroundings.
The 28-year-old Hoppenot certainly feels like an ideal fit for Louisville’s style of play. Coming off a season in which he recorded a club-record 13 assists for Reno 1868 FC, his ability to find space between the midfield and defensive lines before finding a telling pass for one of his frontrunners was key to Reno’s success in its first two seasons.
Hoppenot can also create from wide positions, which should fit well into the flexible system that LouCity’s attacking midfield operates under. Add in the fact that Hoppenot himself has shown a keen eye for goal with 17 goals in 1868 FC’s colors to go with his 19 assists and Louisville is getting a player who can finish as well as create, and who has shown an ability to rise to the big occasion at times in the past.
Mkosana had a more successful time for Louisville since his offseason arrival than Hoppenot for the Rowdies with the 31-year-old putting up four goals in 15 appearances for the defending USL Cup champions. With the Rowdies attack coming in large part through strong wide play with 210 crosses from Open Play and 86 corner kicks delivered into the penalty area this season, Mkosana’s ability to time his runs and finish consistently should fit in well with what Tampa Bay does best.
Mkosana has scored 15 goals since returning to the Championship with Penn FC a season ago, all of which have come from inside the penalty area. His shot conversion rate of 22.06 in that span compares to other forwards in the league like Sacramento Republic FC’s Cameron Iwasa (21.67) while sitting a tier below the likes of Nashville SC’s Daniel Rios (29.41).
Hoppenot and Mkosana almost had a briefly shared history, having both suited up for Penn FC – then known as the Harrisburg City Islanders – in the 2012 season, but neither player appeared on the field at the same time with Mkosana absent from the field in Hoppenot’s three loan appearances that year from the Union. By the time Hoppenot arrived for a lengthier loan spell in 2014 – which saw him help the club to a remarkable run to USL Cup before falling to Sacramento Republic FC – Mkosana had departed for his first stint in Tampa Bay.
Now they are moving in opposite directions looking to help their new clubs toward the pursuit of silverware at the end of this campaign. If things play out positively for both, as previous form suggests it should, it will be no surprise if the two face off this postseason with everything on the line.