Bobby Wood Represents a Milestone for American Center Forwards
Bobby Wood represents a milestone for American strikers because he is a technical, fast, and direct striker who breaks the chain of American strikers who were primarily just a target for headers. In the past, the United States has essentially looked to bomb long balls and hit cross to their center forwards, but now Wood is an aggressive, skilled striker who looks to stretch the defense and go straight to goal.
While Eric Wynalda and Brian McBride were skilled strikers who played in the Bundesliga and the English Premier League respectively, Wood’s skill set and playing style is still something of a new phenomenon for American strikers.
In contrast to his contemporary Jozy Altidore, who is several years older, Wood provides constant movement on and off the ball. He makes runs behind the defense, he checks back to receive a pass and turn, and he also dribbles straight at the defense.
The United States has been looking for a Number 9 who will attack the defense directly, and Wood has the ability and speed to beat defenders off the defense and create scoring opportunities.
Another excellent quality of Wood’s play is how he doesn’t need an invitation to shoot. So many American soccer players will not hit shots on target when they only have half a chance, and so many American soccer players will not take risks.
Wood is undoubtedly the best American center forward right now, and the evidence of this is both the fact that he starts and scores in the Bundesliga and the fact that his game is based on skill and creativity as opposed to physicality. He is tough and physical, but his game isn’t based on pushing people around or looking to head in crosses and corning kicks.
When the United States has its all-important World Cup qualifiers against Honduras and Panama at the end of March, Wood’s name should be the first name on the sheet. The United States may have Clint Dempsey to combine with and create chances for Wood, but even if they don’t, Christian Pulisic, Benny Feilhaber, and Sebastian Lletget are all players who will look to constantly involve Wood and play final balls to him.
Rather than using Wood as a striker partner for Altidore, Wood should be used as the focal point of the attack, and he should be given plenty of space to operate at the front and center of the attack.