With Clint Dempsey left out of the U.S. national team squad for the two 2018 World Cup qualifiers over the next few days, Jurgen Klinsmann has urged his young strikers to step up and take their opportunity.
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Gyasi Zardes (24), Jordan Morris (21) and Bobby Wood (22) are the three forwards selected in the 23-man squad alongside Jozy Altidore and we all know what the latter can do.
However, it is time for one of the forwards under 24 to shine and Bobby Wood seems the most likely candidate.
Sure, there’s a lot of hype about Zardes amid transfer speculation and a move to England in the MLS offseason, but I still believe his best position is out wide. As for Morris, the kid has talent and as soon as he leaves Stanford University it’s likely he’ll be a star in Major League Soccer for the Seattle Sounders, where he can be signed as a Homegrown player after spending time with their development squad. As for Wood, he’s taken the long road to get a chance to prove himself.
The Honolulu, Hawaii native has spent his entire pro career in Germany and is currently at 2. Bundesliga side Union Berlin. His form for the German outfit has been solid this season with five goals and three assists through his opening 14 games of the campaign.
In recent cameos for the U.S. he has impressed with his ability to run at defenders and hold the ball close to his body and bring teammates into the game.
Now is the time for Wood to get a sustained run in the team.
With Aron Johannsson out injured, Dempsey’s days dwindling at 32 years old and Altidore hardly setting the world alight up in Toronto since he returned to Major League Soccer, all of a sudden a big gap has emerged in Klinsmann’s forward line. Apart from veterans Chris Wondolowski and Alan Gordon, Klinsmann doesn’t have many options up top — he has also tried youngster Rubio Rubin, plus Juan Agudelo in recent matches — and the fact that he singled out Zardes, Morris and Wood to step up in the opening qualifiers against St. Vincent & The Grenadines on Friday in St. Louis and away at Trinidad & Tobago next Tuesday shows not only how much faith he has in them but how much he needs them.
By all accounts the reports out of the USMNT’s training camp in Miami earlier this week suggested that Wood looked sharp and was impressing in training.
[ VIDEO: Wood’s winners against Holland, Germany ]
It would be a big surprise if he doesn’t get the nod on Friday and as we’ve seen in recent matches over the past six months, he’s taken opportunities after a disappointing spell in club play last season.
Scoring big goals away at the Netherlands and Germany in famous friendly wins — with a little help from fellow youngster Morris who helped set up both goals — saw Wood’s stock (no pun intended) rise and he put in a considerable shift against Peru in the friendly win in September.
His goal against Mexico, again after jumping off the bench, in the CONCACAF Cup last month proved that he can be composed and sharp in clutch situations as that strike took the game into extratime. It was his third goal in 12 fleeting appearances for the USMNT.
Now is Wood’s time to shine and it’s time to give him a chance. As he’s shown in the past, he can take it.