With no Jozy Altidore available for another major tournament, Jurgen Klinsmann had to find an alternative option at striker. The pressure fell on the shoulders of Bobby Wood to pick up the slack. After a career-best season in the 2. Bundesliga, the striker had already secured a transfer to Hamburg before the Copa America even started. Expectations were high for Wood. Could he live up to them and turn into the vital player the United States needed him to be?
Wood started in five of the six matches in Copa America. Here’s a look at his notable stats:
Games Played: 5
Shots Created: 7
The tournament didn’t get off the best of beginnings for Bobby Wood. Outside of Clint Dempsey, the U.S. attack was rendered useless against the high press of Colombia. After that hiccup, things started to gel in the final third, especially between Wood and Dempsey. They both began developing some chemistry and soon that turned into production. Wood scored his only goal of the tournament in the second group match against Costa Rica. That chemistry was on full display as Dempsey fed an entry pass towards him at the top of the box, he held it up, turned on a defender and struck a great finish to the near post for the team’s third goal of the match.
Regardless of finding the score sheet, Wood was one of the more consistent performers for the U.S. during the Copa. He constantly worked as hard as anyone on the field, fighting to win the ball back or to press the opposing back line. His presence up top was felt in almost every match. When he was suspended for the Argentina match (we’ll get into this in a minute) he was virtually irreplaceable in the lineup.
For as nice it is to see a young striker emerge as a star for the USMNT, and I believe Wood has certainly done that this summer, there are still some negatives to talk about. First of all, against Ecuador he picked up a silly yellow card that could’ve easily been avoided. The consequences of which saw him suspended for the vital semifinal match. Much like Yedlin before him, it’s important to remember that he’s still a relatively young player. He gets a pass for now and hopefully he uses it as a learning experience.
As the tournament dragged on, Wood was arguably the most dynamic attacker on the team. That was most apparent in the third-place match against Colombia in which he got into great positions in the box and had several high percentage scoring opportunities. Unfortunately he wasn’t able to convert, so this is a bit of a mixed bag. It’s a positive that he was able to get into dangerous spots, but it has to be mentioned as a negative that he didn’t finish his chances. Against the biggest teams in the world, finishing chances is the difference between winning and losing and the U.S. found that out in that match. If Wood converts at least of one his chances then possibly the result is totally different.
Copa Grade - B+
I was thoroughly impressed with Bobby Wood during the Copa America. His work rate was unmatched and his relentlessness was impressive to see. The one goal was very well-taken and the chemistry he developed with Dempsey will pay dividends in the future. It would’ve been nice to see him finish more of his chances, that’s why I shied away from giving him an A. All-in-all it was a very encouraging tournament for Wood and gives the team a legitimate striker option for the future.
Hamburg beckons for the 23-year-old. It’s an extremely important upcoming season for him as he looks to carry over his confidence and form to the German top flight. Confidence is huge for Wood, who has rode his massive wave of success over the last 16 months to a Bundesliga transfer. If he can stay confident, continue to improve and keep the goals flowing, the sky will be the limit for him. His USMNT status seems to be set as a starter, but as we’ve seen far too often, a drop in form or confidence can quickly change that. Hopefully he has a successful start to his season and comes into the World Cup qualifiers in September at the top of his game.