Bobby Wood's magical year continued with last night's win 1-0 win over Paraguay at the Copa America Centenario. Although he didn't score and isn't garnering headlines like John Anthony Brooks and Brad Guzan, he played a key role in the victory.
DeAndre Yedlin's two yellow cards in quick succession forced the U.S. to play with 10-men for the majority of the match. The focus shifted from holding serve in a back-and-forth offensive battle to a defend, counter, and hold on strategy.
Wood, playing as a striker, was expected to maintain possession long enough to give the defense a break. He dutifully played the role of a hold up striker, dealing with countless bone rattling challenges, some of which were wrongfully not penalized by the referee.
He even created a scoring opportunity that would have put the match away, but his perfectly played through ball on the counter attack was squandered by Gyasi Zardes taking one touch too many.
Wood's contributions against Paraguay won't show up in the stat sheet, but they should be appreciated.
His only true misstep was the yellow card he was assessed in the 72nd minute for shoving an opposing player after a particularly harsh challenge. It wasn't an ideal reaction, but an understandable one after being on the receiving end of multiple tackles. On a night when six U.S. players were cautioned, his hardly stands out. Wood should have kept a level head, but at least he won't be forced to miss the next match. He'll have to be careful carrying a yellow card into the quarterfinal, as cards don't reset until after the match.
Wood's emergence comes at a key time for the United States, which is heading into the hardest stretch of 2018 World Cup Qualifying in need of consistent contributors. With Jozy Altidore's struggles continuing, the U.S. needs a striker who can score, create with runs and passes, and hold onto the ball.
Wood's proven he can score goals, with six for the senior national team and 17 this past season for Union Berlin, but against Paraguay he showcased the ability to be the complete striker the United States needs.