FourFourTwo's USMNT 50: No. 8 - Bobby Wood
We've known Wood's name for nearly a decade, since he took off at 14 for Germany, but he truly burst into our consciousness last year with winning goals in back-to-back friendlies at the Netherlands and Germany. That kicked off a remarkable year and a half for the Hawaiian forward, who followed with a mesmerizing campaign with Union Berlin, signed a four-year Bundesliga deal with Hamburger SV and nailed down a first-choice spot for Jurgen Klinsmann as the U.S. national team marched to the Copa America Centenario semifinals.
Wood's knack for netting timely goals and effectiveness in getting behind defenses is becoming a big part of what makes the U.S. tick, and at 24, he's only starting to master a pretty impressive array of skills. He's a sturdy 5-foot-10 with good pace, great touch, an engine that can go forever, and ingenuity that we've seen too seldom among American forwards. The golden future U.S. fans dream for? He's a big part of that.
He's been chasing this since adolescence. He left his native Hawaii at 12 for Southern California and superclub Irvine Strikers (Benny Feilhaber, Chad Marshall, Michael Orozco and Chris Pontius are alumni), joined 1860 Munich's academy two years later, and made his first-team debut at 18. Stardom did not follow: He missed a year with a knee injury and through six second-tier seasons with 1860 and on loan to Erzgebirge Aue had just six goals in 63 games.
Wood debuted for the U.S. in August 2013 against Bosnia and Herzegovina, made four more appearances off the bench in 2014, then enjoyed a breakthrough 2015 campaign. He followed his heroics in the May friendlies with an overtime equalizer in the CONCACAF Cup loss to Mexico, scored again a World Cup qualifying win over St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and had seven Union Berlin goals by the winter break.
He ended up with 17 for Union, the most by an American in Germany's top two flights, and that moved to Hamburg, where he scored in his first two league appearances, netted two more goals in an October cup victory. He got more attention, though, for throwing an elbow into Dominique Hintz's stomach in a loss at Cologne, good for a three-game ban and a tongue-lashing from manager Markus Gisdol.
He was vital in the Copa America campaign, scoring in the group-stage romp over Costa Rica, and tallied in World Cup qualifiers against St. Vincent and the Grenadines again and Mexico, giving him eight goals in 29 international appearances. Another 16 games and three more goals will equal Brian Ching's men's records for a Hawaiian -- Natasha Kai's women's marks are further away -- but is there any doubt that he's the islands' most important contribution to American soccer? Didn't think so.