Score 14 goals in 19 games as he did to start the season, and Chandler Hoffman is hailed as a hero. Go six more without finding the back of the net — his longest drought of the year — and Hoffman hears grumbles.
“Right?” the Louisville City FC striker said this week after a toasty morning at training. “You definitely feel the pressure. But that’s the reason I came here — to score goals and be the man for this team.”
Hoffman hopes to return to his old ways at 7:30 p.m. Saturday when LouCity hosts Bethlehem Steel FC, the official affiliate of Major League Soccer’s Philadelphia Union. While the Steel will field a roster full of talent, Hoffman knows from experience that his current club can boast more chemistry.
During his days with the LA Galaxy, where Hoffman suited up for an MLS Cup-winning side in 2014, he often didn’t find out about chances to play for the United Soccer League’s LA Galaxy II until the day before games.
“When you’re preparing, it’s like, ‘Maybe he’s going to play. Maybe they’re going to bring down this guy,'” Hoffman said.
Now, he’s nearly a sure thing to start up top Saturday at Slugger Field. But Hoffman’s scoreless streak has correlated in a downturn for LouCity’s form; after rattling off 17 games unbeaten, the club has since gone 1-3-2.
It’s not for lack of trying.
On Aug. 5 in Pittsburgh, where LouCity went on to beat the Riverhounds, Hoffman had a penalty kick stopped. And in last Friday’s loss to the New York Red Bulls II, he hit the back of the net, but referees whistled him offside in the process.
“I think definitely other teams are keying on me, but the important thing is just creating opportunities and knowing they’re going to start hitting the back of the net soon,” Hoffman said. “…I’m right knocking on the door, and I know as soon as I get one — it’s how it’s been my whole life — they’ll start coming.”
Hoffman has worked more recently with Cameron Lancaster directly behind him in the midfield. The two have yet to hook up for a goal, but that, too, the striker feels like is only a matter of time.
Hoffman remains in the running for the USL’s Golden Boot for leading scorer won last year by LouCity’s Matt Fondy, who tallied 22 goals in 28 games. Only the Galaxy’s Jack McBean, with 15 goals, ranks ahead of Hoffman. And McBean recently went out on loan for the rest of the season in Europe.
That’s an individual objective. Hoffman has the team more in mind.
“I think it’s important we turn it around,” he said. “The last six games have not gone how we’d hoped at all, especially after going 17 unbeaten. Coming back home, it’s important with five games left to start getting things right for the playoffs.”
LouCity will battle a Bethlehem team it played to a scoreless draw early this season, on May 1, in Pennsylvania. Personnel has changed plenty since then for the Steel, who sit ninth in the USL standings and in a battle to reach eighth, the postseason cut line.
As for LouCity, “There’s definitely no complacency,” said coach James O’Connor. “That will never be allowed here. Obviously, to get into the playoffs with five games remaining is great. We’re really pleased with that. But, again, we want to make sure we’re focused on Saturday and that we get a good performance.”