It’s hard to find midfielders who are elite all over the field, particularly on the defensive end.
It’s even harder to find midfielders who can do it all and want to play great defense. If you’re usually tasked with scoring goals, playing exceptional defense is often considered lower on the list of priorities. Way lower, actually.
Leo Hoffman isn’t wired quite like everyone else.
“I definitely take it as a sign of disrespect whenever someone dodges me,” Hoffman said. “Offense is great, but if you can’t stop people from scoring, it’s a problem. It’s important not to be a liability on defense. It’s important to bear down on defense and get stops.”
Dynamic Force All Over the Field
Watch Hoffman fly around the field for Team 91 Long Island and it’s quickly evident that he’s a rare breed. Hoffman is a workhorse all over the field that can thrive in any situation. Need someone to go coast-to-coast on a clear? He’s your man. His first step quickness gives him an advantage over just about any defender with the ball in his stick. He can invert or beat you from up top. The Brunswick (Conn.) sophomore is adept at finding open guys with his vision. He’s often tasked with coming up with ground balls off of faceoff wings.
In short, there aren’t many players like him, particularly in the 2023 class. It’s why he checks in as the No. 2 player overall in NLFRankings.com’s first ’23 rankings, and the No. 1 midfielder in the class. Hoffman could have played in any era, but in the shot-clock era, his versatility and ability to change a game anywhere on the field is what makes him so valuable.
“Being a two-way midfielder is really important, especially with how fast the game is with the shot clock,” Hoffman said. “It’s important to get from defense to offense and it’s the easiest way to score goals. I think I’ve been gifted with good feet and I’ve worked really hard to create a great first step, and I think it helps create space and get guys rotating and moving off ball. Once I get a step on my defender, the defender starts to move and open lanes up.”
It’s no surprise to hear that Hoffman has drawn inspiration from a handful of different players who made their mark all over the place. He touts former Duke standout, current Blue Devils volunteer assistant and PLL midfielder Ned Crotty as a player he’s watched a ton of film on, along with another Duke / Chrome standout in Jordan Wolf. There’s another one closer to his age, too, and it’s a player to whom he’s been compared.
“I’ve watched a lot of film on (fellow Team 91 LI product, NLF No. 1 ’21 and Duke commit) Andrew McAdorey. He’s the best of the best. He’s so dominant on defense and unguardable on offense,” Hoffman said. “I’m grateful that I can be compared to him. He’s the No. 1 recruit in the country and what he does is amazing. I’m just trying to be the best player that I can be.”
That’s already a pretty darn good player. Hoffman has carved out some major minutes for Brunswick, one of the top teams in the country, this spring. He and NLF No. 3 ’23 Tomas Delgado represent the Bruins’ future, but the future got here pretty quickly. This summer, he’ll be tasked with helping Team 91 Bandits, ranked the No. 2 team in the country by NLFRankings.com, bring home an NLF National Championship in July.
“Playing with 91 has been amazing and it’s been an honor to be coached by Coach Joe (Spallina) and (Hall of Fame goalie) Coach Sal (LoCascio),” Hoffman said. “I want to thank them for helping to put me in this position, as well as Coach (David) Bruce and Coach (David) Earl at Brunswick.”
“I think he’s a big-time midfielder at the next level,” Spallina said. “He can do everything. He can play offense, defense, off-ball, off the wing, man-up, man-down, whatever. The kid does it all. He’s as versatile a player as I’ve ever coached.”
Pretty lofty praise.
NLFRankings.com Class of ’23 Rankings
No. 2 Leo Hoffman, midfield, Brunswick (Conn.) / Team 91 Long Island
No. 3 Tomas Delgado, midfield, Brunswick (Conn.) / Prime Time
No. 4 Tucker Wade, midfield, Bullis (Md.) / DC Express
No. 5 Owen Duffy, attack, St. Anthony’s (N.Y.) / Team 91 Long Island
No. 6 Caleb Fyock, goalie, St. John’s (D.C.) / Annapolis Hawks
No. 7 Benn Johnston, midfield, Avon Old Farms (Conn.) / True National
No. 8 Mac Christmas, LSM, Georgetown Prep (Md.) / MadLax DC Dogs
No. 9 Nate Kabiri, attack, Episcopal (Va.) / MadLax DC Dogs
No. 10 Jacob Pacheco, midfield, Boys’ Latin (Md.) / Crabs