Bobby Wood is too electric and too clinical not to start alongside Clint Dempsey for the United States in the September World Cup qualifiers.
For many Jozy Altidore is the first-choice U.S. center forward, but he doesn’t provide the same scoring threat as Wood. The Hawaiian Number 9 plays more direct and more aggressive than Altidore who doesn’t look to get behind the defense as much as Wood.
When Wood plays he makes runs all over the attack looking to receive a through ball or chip over the defense, and he attacks the goal more. Altidore has really improved his passing and playmaking, and this causes him to often not be high enough up the field to receive a final ball. Wood on the other hand plays higher up the field and also attacks defenders directly off the dribble, and he has better 1v1 skills than Altidore.
A trademark of Wood’s play for the U.S. is his willingness and accuracy with half chances and shots off the turn. Even when he’s marked, he can create enough space to hit a quality shot on goal. A more electric and creative forward like Wood is harder for opposing defenses to contain, and his play draws the attention of defenders, which leaves Christian Pulisic and Dempsey more open.
Often center forwards are either the kind that like to play with their back to goal or the type that face the goal and try to slip behind the defense. Altidore actually likes to face the goal and receive balls to feet in space, but Wood does this same thing better. When you watch Altidore and Wood play, you have to concede that Wood is the one that looks smoother, faster, and more skilled, and those qualities are much more effective and harder to defend.
There’s nothing wrong with Wood and Altidore starting together, but if the option is one or the other with Dempsey, then the best choice is Wood who is faster, more clinical, and more direct than Altidore.