This offseason has been a new experience for Chandler Hoffman. The fourth-leading scorer in the USL Championship’s history has – maybe for the first time since he was selected with the No. 13 pick of the 2012 MLS SuperDraft by the Philadelphia Union – gone into an offseason unclear on where the next step in his career would take him.
After ending the 2020 Championship season with a hat trick for Orange County SC while on loan from Birmingham Legion FC, though, the veteran forward is eager to show he’s still on top of his game and has plenty to offer a new club.
“I think for me, I feel like obviously that last game in Las Vegas showed to me personally, and I hope to people across the league, that I still have a lot of goals left in me,” Hoffman said this week.
As he approaches what will be his 10th season in the professional ranks, though, he’s also ready to embrace what he hopes is a long-term future in the game once his playing career is over. The 30-year-old is not only aiming to keep putting the ball in the back of the net himself, but also pass on the tricks of the trade to players looking to emulate his success in the Championship.
He’s also looking to broaden his horizons as he looks to his own future.
“I think for me [my next club is] a place where I can just get back to enjoying the game and scoring goals, but ultimately learning more as I get toward the latter part of my career,” he said. “An organization where I can learn almost as an internship, learn from either the GM or the Technical Director, or if they have an Academy help coach the Academy, I have my ‘C’ License, so just to really expand from more than what I’m doing on the field.”
If there’s a driving force for Hoffman on the field, though, it may come from the goals he wrote down as a kid that his parents still have as a keepsake. Winning a USL Championship Final – to go with his Regular Season Title with Real Monarchs SLC and an MLS Cup with the LA Galaxy – is one. Reaching 100 professional goals is the other. Sitting 34 goals away from the century mark in the Championship’s regular season, it remains a clear target for one of the league’s sharpest marksmen.
“As a kid I had that I wanted to score 100 professional goals, win a championship and make 1 million dollars playing soccer,” Hoffman said. “I don’t know how old I was at the time, maybe 10 or 11, but hitting that 100-goal mark would be huge for me and top off what I consider to be very fortunate and blessed to have played in the places I have and met the people I have. I think as you go along in the game, you see the relationships you build with people are what you remember most.”
So, where might be a good landing spot for Hoffman in 2021? Here are three options.
There’s no question Indy Eleven is looking to build a title contender for the 2021 Championship season, but last week’s transfer of Tyler Pasher to the Houston Dynamo FC leaves a notable void in the club’s attacking corps. That’s where Hoffman could fit right in, bringing his experience and nose for goal to replace Pasher’s outstanding production over the past two seasons.
On top of that, the forwards that Indy currently has under contract in Nick Moon and Cal Jennings are both exciting young talents, but still a little green. Hoffman’s ability to serve as the veteran amongst that prospective attacking group could help coax out increased production from both as they look to make their own impact in Indy’s title aspirations.
Hoffman’s 2020 season ended in Orange County, but there are a few good reasons why it makes sense for Orange County to bring the veteran back on a permanent deal for the new season. First up, there’s a familiarity between the two parties that would help for a positive transition alongside fellow returnees Brian Iloski and Darwin Jones. Hoffman would also add another attacking option to a front line that already includes Thomas Enevoldsen – set to return after spending 2020 on loan in his native Denmark – and new arrivals Eero Markkanen and Ronaldo Damus.
Hoffman has previously done strong work on the West Coast, too. He was an All-America selection at UCLA collegiately while at the same time earning USL League Two honors at Orange County Blue Star before turning pro. He was also a key player in the LA Galaxy II’s successful inaugural campaign in 2014, earning Championship All-League First Team honors. As attacking as the Western Conference tends to be, it’s always going to be useful to have plenty of potential goals at your disposal.
Hoffman has worn the colors of Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC before during the club’s inaugural season, when he scored four goals in 10 games while on loan from Houston Dynamo FC in 2015. A full-time arrival in Colorado Springs could make for another intriguing addition to the Switchbacks as they begin a new era at their 8,000-seat downtown stadium under incoming Head Coach Brendan Burke.
There is a little history between Hoffman and Burke which makes this move a possibility. Burke was part of the Philadelphia Union’s coaching team when Hoffman was drafted by the club, allowing the two to connect then. With 24-year-old Austin Dewing and 20-year-old Michee Ngalina currently in the club’s squad, Hoffman could provide the veteran leadership for a side looking to make a big impact in 2021.