Bobby Wood: Striker or Strike Out?



Forgive the baseball reference. It’s late. I’m slowly approaching the midnight feeding of my two-week old son, and that’s the best title I’ve got considering the lack of sleep. But my son was kind enough to nap during last night’s USMNT friendly against Colombia. And despite the many story lines and reactions from the game, I wanted to take the time to write about Bobby Wood.

I admit, I am not a Bobby Wood fan. When I think of him, I think of two things: 1) he only scores meaningless goals, and 2) he won’t take the USMNT to the next level. Through this article and some old-fashioned internet sleuthing, I’m going to try to either confirm or dispel my prejudices.

First, I think it’s fair to say the success of a striker is measured by the goals he’s scored. So let’s look at the Wood’s goals for the USMNT. He has 13 goals in 42 appearances, dating back to his first senior appearance in 2013. He’s scoring about every third game, not exactly an all-star pace. For comparison to other American strikers see this nifty chart I made:

Player Goals Appearances
Jozy Altidore 41 110
Gyasi Zardes 6 40
Chris Wondolowski 11 35
Christian Pulisic 9 21
Dom Dwyer 2 4

Surprisingly to me, Wood has a much higher goal-to-appearance ratio than the rest of the player pool. But do his goals make an impact? Of his 13, 7 came in friendlies, and he’s never had a multi-goal game. However, he had three in the Hex during 2018 WC qualifying. …but he also helped run up the score on St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Costa Rica back in 2015/2016. Therefore, I don’t think I’m too far off when I say that Bobby Wood scores meaningless goals. *Side note: In just over two seasons in the Bundesliga, Wood has only 9 goals in 55 regular season appearances. He also was Hamburger SV’s starting striker last season when they were relegated for the first time in club history.

But can Wood take the USMNT to the next level? He is best when running straight at defenders and straight at the goal, which is the positive way of saying he’s not very creative on the ball. While he’s not afraid to take on defenders, he has a habit of losing possession. Colombian defenders easily dispossessed him at least twice during the friendly. Strikers need to make every opportunity count, and Wood just hasn’t showed it to me.

Even though Wood has 42 appearances, he is only 25 years old. And he only has two full seasons in a top-flight league. By the next World Cup qualifying cycle, he could develop into the goal-scoring threat that the USMNT needs. However, if the rift with his current team continues and he can’t get minutes, his development could stagnate. [And if Gregg Berhalter is the next head coach, Zardes could be the early favorite for the starting role simply by way of familiarity.]

So have I convinced myself I’m wrong about Bobby Wood? No. But I don’t feel as pessimistic about him as before.
Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for me to give my son his bottle.
-Nick

 

What are your thoughts on Bobby Wood?
Should another striker take his place?
Can he elevate the USMNT?
Let us know in the comments below!


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