Where EAST meets the Northwest
SENSATIONAL STRIKER. Bobby Wood (#7) of the United States
battles Francisco Calvo (#3) of Costa Rica during a Copa América Centenario
group A soccer match at Soldier Field in Chicago. Wood, age 23, debuted on the
U.S. national team in 2013. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Cristian Gamboa (#16) of Costa Rica and Bobby Wood (#7) of the
United States battle during a Copa América Centenario group A soccer match at
Soldier Field in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
From The Asian Reporter, V26, #13 (July 4, 2016), page 8.
Striker Bobby Wood performs well in Copa América
By Mike Street
Special to The Asian Reporter
The United States has dominated several international sports, but soccer has
never been one of them. A surge of young talent bodes well for the future,
however, led by striker Bobby Wood. Wood showed his value at the Copa América
last month, both with his presence and absence, as the United States tied its
best finish ever in the tournament.
This year is the 100th anniversary of the Copa América, a tournament
traditionally held among South American teams plus a handful of invitees. This
year, those invitees included the U.S. and Mexico, for a special version of the
tournament held in the United States.
On its home turf, the U.S. team hoped to show how far they had come since
placing fourth place at the 1995 Copa América, the team’s best finish ever at
the tournament. Coach Jürgen Klinsmann hoped Bobby Wood would be the star
striker the U.S. has often lacked.
Wood was born in Honolulu to an African-American father and a mother with
Japanese roots. He played for a California youth league before drawing the
attention of TSV 1860 Munich in Germany. He rose through their youth ranks
quickly, becoming a starter for the club at the age of 18.
Last season, the 23-year-old played with Berlin Union in the second tier of
Germany’s Bundesliga, setting a league scoring record for an American-born
player. This led to a four-year deal for Wood with Hamburg in the first tier of
the world-class Bundesliga.
Since Wood’s 2013 debut with the U.S. national team, he has amassed 23 caps
and scored six goals. Klinsmann expected Wood to electrify the U.S. attack in
the Copa América, though there were few chances in their opening match against
Although the U.S. lost 0-2, Wood played his role well, taking the ball deep
into enemy territory to set up Clint Dempsey. Wood maintained possession well
and held off aggressive defenders to allow his teammates to get open.
In their next match, against Costa Rica, the U.S. needed to win to advance.
Wood set up the first goal by drawing a penalty kick when opposing fullback
Cristian Gamboa pushed him in the back; Dempsey hammered home the subsequent
Dempsey fed Jermaine Jones for Team USA’s second goal, then notched his
second assist of the half by setting up Wood. Wood quickly settled the pass with
his back to the goal, then spun and drilled the ball inside the near post.
Graham Zusi scored the fourth goal to seal the 4-0 victory.
Needing a win against Paraguay to ensure a quarterfinal berth, Wood harassed
the defense, drawing both attention and rough challenges. These eventually wore
on Wood, who shoved a Paraguayan player, drawing his first yellow card, one that
would come back to haunt him.
Dempsey scored the match’s lone goal, and Wood nearly set up a second goal
with a great feed to Gyasi Zardes on a breakaway counter, but Zardes couldn’t
pull the trigger. The U.S. held on for the 1-0 victory, winning the group when
Colombia fell to Costa Rica.
In the U.S.’s quarterfinal match against Ecuador, Wood became a constant
thorn in the Ecuadorian defense. He held off fullbacks to feed his teammates and
drew defensive attention to open up space for runs inside. In the 22nd minute,
Wood drew defenders near the corner, freeing up Jones. Jones received Wood’s
pass and served up a beautiful cross to Dempsey, who headed it home.
Wood repeated this formula in the second half, this time attracting the
defense to set up a series of passes between Dempsey and Zardes that led to the
squad’s second goal. Ecuador responded with a goal and threatened several more
times, but the U.S. hung on, 2-1, to advance to the semifinal match.
Unfortunately, Wood involved himself in a second-half fracas between teammate
Alejandro Bedoya and Ecuador’s Antonio Valencia. Rushing into the melee earned
Wood another yellow card, which disqualified him for the semifinal match against
Facing the top team in the world presents a challenge under the best of
circumstances, but missing key players makes it nearly impossible. With Wood,
Jones, and Bedoya all suspended for penalties, the U.S. team had little chance
against Argentina, who prevailed 4-0.
Argentina danced, spun, and passed crisply around and through the American
defense, and the U.S. failed to get off a single shot in return. Had the U.S.
been at full strength, it’s unlikely the outcome would have been different, but
it might have been a more competitive match.
After losing to Argentina, the U.S.’s third-place game would be a rematch
against Colombia. Wood, Jones, and Bedoya all returned, but fullback John Brooks
and defensive midfielder Fabian Johnson were out due to injury. Those defensive
changes might have made the difference, as Colombia broke through the right side
of the U.S. defense in the 31st minute to score the game’s only goal.
Wood and the U.S. offense certainly had their chances to respond. Dempsey
sent a brilliant free kick curving to the upper right hand corner of the goal,
and only a fantastic save by Colombian keeper David Ospina kept the ball out of
For his part, Wood overcame an aggressive challenge by Colombia’s defense
that took him to the ground. Incredibly, he maintained possession, got back on
his feet, and fired a shot that ricocheted off the right post. On two other
occasions, Wood fed passes to Dempsey and Zardes that might have found the goal,
but neither player could capitalize.
Though the U.S. only won fourth place at Copa América Centenario, there is
still plenty for U.S. fans to be optimistic about. The U.S. only looked foolish
against Argentina, but many teams have experienced that same feeling. In every
other match, Team USA appeared solid, and its young players offer further hope.
In Bobby Wood, the United States may finally have the world-class striker to get
them to the next level.
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