News

Rowdies Swap Hoppenot for Louisville’s Lucky Mkosana

by JAKE NUTTING

Get ready to see a familiar face in the Green and Gold.

Unused Substitutes has learned that the Tampa Bay Rowdies have acquired forward Lucky Mkosana from the defending USL Cup champions Louisville City FC. In exchange for Mkosana the sent forward Antoine Hoppenot to Louisville. Mkosana could be available to suit up for the Rowdies for Saturday’s match against Ottawa Fury FC at Al Lang.

Mkosana, 31, originally played for the Rowdies on loan during the 2013 North American Soccer League season before signing a permanent contract the following year. In 2015 he moved to the rival New York Cosmos for a two year stint that ended with 9 goals in 52 appearances and two NASL championships. He started 2017 by signing with IFK Mariehamn in Finland’s top division for a short period that saw him net two goals in 9 appearances before returning to the Cosmos for the remainder of the year.

Under former Rowdies assistant coach Raoul Voss, Mkosana found the back of the net 11 times for Penn FC in the USL’s Eastern Conference last year. He signed with Louisville in the offseason and has 4 goals under his belt through 15 appearances so far this year.

Hoppenot moved to the Rowdies in the offseason coming off of two highly productive seasons with Reno 1868 FC in the USL’s Western Conference. He left Reno having notched 17 goals and 19 assists in 67 appearances. His ability to set up others for goals was specifically touted by the Rowdies at the time of his signing.

Midway through the season, though, Hoppenot has yet to have the impact some expected. He’s appeared in just 9 matches and has only been picked by head coach Neill Collins to start three times. Hoppenot has not scored or assisted on any goals yet, but he is third on the team with 10 chances created. Andrew Tinari and Leo Fernandes are first and second with 30 and 27 chances created respectively. It’s possible with more regular minutes and a different system in Louisville that Hoppenot could return to the form he found in Reno.

For the Rowdies the trade would appear to a move to bring in an attacker with a knack for getting into dangerous areas in the box and finding a way to finish. The Rowdies are even with Indy XI at 33 points at the top of the Eastern Conference, but both sides have largely gotten to that position through quality defensive efforts. Tampa Bay and Indy are tied for 14th with four other teams in goals scored with 24 tallies so far.

Collins and his staff will hope Mkosana can provide the lethal instinct to finish inside the box that has been lacking in some crucial moments and caused them to settle for draws rather than three points on certain occasions.

Jake Nutting
Writer at Large for The Unused Substitutes and NASL Beat Writer for Empire of Soccer. Fullbacks are people too.