To Germany's three biggest cities -- Munich, Berlin and Hamburg -- is where soccer has been taking Honolulu-born Bobby Wood, who left Hawaii at age 12 and spent two years in Southern California before moving to Europe.
“It’s just a coincidence,” says Wood when asked if he has an affinity for metropolises. “I also spent a season in Aue.”
Aue is a German town of 18,000 near the Czech border. Wood landed at second division FC Erzgebirge Aue in the middle of the 2014-15 season after falling out with his coach at 1860 Munich, the club he joined at age 14.
Wood scored only three goals as Erzgebirge Aue was relegated to the third division, but U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann called him in for friendly games last June at the Netherlands and Germany -- and Wood scored the gamewinners in 4-3 and 3-2 victories.
“He [Klinsmann] was there for me from the beginning when no one really believed in me,” says 23-year-old Wood. “I owe him a lot.”
Wood has a chance to pay back Klinsmann at the Copa Centenario. The USA is without two strikers Klinsmann took to the 2014 World Cup. Veteran Jozy Altidore and Aron Johansson are injured. And Wood is in prime form to provide goals for the USA.
Scoring against the Netherlands and Germany led to Union Berlin buying Wood for $1 million -- a record for the club whose fans helped with the construction work of its stadium renovation because it ran out of funds.
Union Berlin’s gamble on an American who had only scored only six goals in German second division soccer, with Erzgebirge Aue and 1860 Munich, paid off. After Wood scored 17 goals last season -- a record for an American in German pro soccer -- Union Berlin sold him for $4.4 million to first division Hamburg SV.
Photo by Felix courtesy of Groundhoppingetc.
“Where was Bobby Wood two years ago? where is Bobby Wood now?” says Klinsmann. “He’s going to a big club now.”
Wood scored in the USA’s 3-2 loss to Mexico in Concacaf Cup in October and in a 6-1 win over St. Vincent & the Grenadines in November’s World Cup qualifier. In the prep games for the Copa Centenario, he scored in the 3-1 win over Puerto Rico, assisted in the 1-0 win over Ecuador, and assisted seven minutes after coming on at halftime in the 4-0 win over Bolivia.
“He’s scoring goals,” says Klinsmann. “And as a striker the biggest recipe is goals. When you score goals, you get the confidence and you just get stronger in everything you do. It’s just nice to see how he kind of broke through. How he fought himself through a very difficult situation.
“Two years ago, he seemed kind of lost at 1860 Munich, not getting playing time. He moved on at the end of the year to another second division team. And now he broke through and is getting even hungrier and taking on a big challenge with a first division team. But the international level is a different level.”
Wood himself says he’s still working himself into the U.S. national team.
“I’m still one of the young guys,” he says. “I’m just one of the young guys coming up and trying to help the team out.”
The help would come with goals -- and Wood has the recipe.