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Wood heating up at right time for Hamburg, USMNT

Bobby Wood admits that Saturday’s win came down to a moment of luck, but there’s nothing lucky about the form he’s in heading into World Cup qualifiers.

The U.S. Men’s National Team forward scored an 80th minute game-winning goal on Sunday, leading Hamburg to a vital 2-1 win over Borussia Monchengladbach. After contesting for a header, the ball fell right to Wood’s feet, allowing him a shot on goal that could prove vital to the club’s hopes of staying in the Bundesliga.

“We fought well today and had luck on our side. On my goal, I acted instinctively,” Wood said. “The moment I got up, the ball came to me and then I had the feeling that the other players were reacting, so I took a step.”

The USMNT forward is peaking at the right time. Wood has scored in four of his last 10 games, helping lead Hamburg to victory in four of the club’s last five matches. Those wins have helped the club surge all the way to 16th, tied with 15th-place Werder Bremen for the final spot of safety on the table.

Internationally, Wood now looks ahead towards USMNT qualifiers as clashes with Honduras loom. His recent goalscoring record should certainly impress head coach Bruce Arena, who has plenty of lineup decisions to make when he takes charge of a full-strength USMNT for the first time ahead of his first competitive matches since his return to the position.

However, it hasn’t been Wood’s goalscoring that’s impressed his club coach, Markus Gisdol. Rather, it’s been his defensive work, which was on full display for all 90 minutes on Sunday.

“He was our best two-way fighter and player against the ball,” Gisdol said at training on Monday. “I talked to him during the winter break and said he does not have that component in his game yet. He has 100% internalized it, and we can only hope that he will remain so humble and continue.”

If Wood’s attacking and defensive work continues, Hamburg may find themselves safe from relegation, a feat that seemed very unlikely just several weeks ago. Tough matches loom, as Hamburg prepares to face Timmy Chandler’s Eintracht Frankfurt and Christian Pulisic’s Borussia Dortmund in the coming weeks with a clash with Koln sandwiched in the middle.

Still, given the club’s recent form, Wood is confident as he looks to help guide his team towards a better finish as the season marches to a close.

“We need to maintain this team mentality, then we will get our points. Each player is doing well right now and it’s fun to play with everyone. I feel good, feel the confidence of the whole team.


  1. Before every game people are ready, even eager to dump Altidore. It’s early in this MLS season, but if you will recall, once he got over injuries last season, he finished very strongly with his club team. He has more power and strength than our other strikers have and he has the capability to overpower defenders in CONCACAF more than other strikers in the region.

    • A couple of years ago Altidore was clearly a stronger player than Wood. I don’t think that’s the case any more. I’ve seen Bobby score a few goals where a fair amount of strength was required to shake off the defender.

    • He showed alot of strength when he collapsed to the ground in his last game to get a weak PK. He can have all the strength in the world, but bobby has the speed and strength to actually get to a through ball, then hold off the defender. If the ball isnt landing within 5 yards of Jozy, he most likely isnt going to beat someone to the ball with his speed.

      • Kind of like Bobby who layed there in the box waving at the ref to give him a weak penalty call. Props to bobby for realizes hey my guy still has the ball in a dangerous position and getting up. The only difference between the goal for Bobby and Jozy’s penalty is the ref.

  2. It might sound crazy and look like an unbalanced lineup, but we would run over Mexico all day if Wood, Jozy and Morris played. They have trouble containing two big guys, but 3 up there, they would spend all game containing these 3 and couldn’t play their possession game. Also we have Pulisic and they probably end up the game with 9 guys from fouling our players.

    • Hate to rain on your parade, but the last couple of times we have played Mexico, for large parts of the game they have controlled the midfield. Having great strikers doesn’t count for much if you can’t get them the ball. Maybe with Nagbe, Pulisic, and some others we can change that, but it has yet to be shown first that we have the players who can do that.

  3. I agree that the United States has proven to be better in a 442 system. We have had substantially better results and we all know this. I don’t think we should continue this system anymore . We have the players and the technical ability to succeed in the 433/4231 systems. The only person who won’t do well is Altidore.we could have a very good and technical squad if we used our people Right. A front three of nagbe wood cp22 would be devastating to concacaf teams. Both wingers and even wood have a good defense of work rate and outstanding technical ability. Central midfield group of any combination of Bradley Sasha and any other partner would be outstanding. A back for with Brooks and Cameron in the middle with DeAndre and Fabian outside would provide speed and quality. And the best part is, I don’t know for sure but I don’t think any of them play in a 442 for their day jobs.

  4. I think we’ll see a 4-1-3-2, which is what we trotted out vs. Jamaica and it looked to be more functional for our player pool. We absolutely need 2 strikers up top, we’ve been more successful with it and BA is aware of that in my opinion.

    • I wanted to do some analysis to see if we really do play better with two strikers, so I went back and looked at every game back to the Azerbaijan game prior to the World Cup (50 games total). I only looked at the starting lineups and didn’t consider changes after substitutions. We lined up in a two striker formation 37 out of the 50 games. Interestingly it didn’t really matter. Goals scored was very slightly higher in a two striker formation and goals against was identical. Points per match was identical. There certainly isn’t the kind of difference that would be indicated by the popularity of the opinion.

      I also looked at how the team played with MB/JJ as the central midfield tandem. Surprisingly, as it turns out it doesn’t matter what the center midfield pairing is, as long as MB is in it. With MB on the field, goal differential is .67/game higher than without him, although to be fair it’s a pretty small sample size without him (seven games). Points per match is 1.72 vs 1.54 without him. Win percentage is almost identical with MB/JJ together in central midfield. Interestingly, with a different central midfield goals scored goes up a lot, but so does goals allowed.

      • But I’ve been informed that Michael Bradley SUX! and that his continued presence in the midfield is what is holding us back.

        As to your point about the two strikers vs. one striker, it is always good to get some hard statistics instead of random opinions and impressions. It may be that the shifts in the middle of a game have made a difference, as I can remember once or twice at least (perhaps there is more) when a shift to 2 strikers led to a goal after the offense looked inept with only 1, but that may just be a random opinion/impression that I wish I had the resources to back up with facts.

      • I agree. This whole “we need two strikers because we do better” stinks of Jozy. In other words, almost every time we have played with one striker Altidore has been that striker alone up top. So should the conversation be:

        1. “We don’t do well in a 1 striker system”


        2. “Altidore is no good in a 1 striker system.”

      • Who are we getting on the field by playing one striker and who is coming off.

        Altidore vs Bedoya – I don’t think there is much argument here, unless you are trying to bunker (Altidore)

        Altidore vs Kljestan – Neither play defense, Jozy has been far more productive for USMNT, Kljestan can get others involved, but has disappeared for large portions of his Nat appearances (60/40 Jozy)

        Altidore vs Nagbe – Of how green that grass is over there, Nagbe doesn’t score or assist, he looks pretty, he’s really fast, but he doesn’t produce for his club nor has he produced a lot for US outside of the match with Bolivia (Groupspeak will go with Nagbe here despite facts)

        Altidore vs Lletget – Again the backup QB is always better, Lletget looked really good when he burst into the league and once teams had him scouted he did nothing, his move to the center of pitch looked promising at the end of last season, He’s been back on the wing for LAG, not sure that matters (again I think a lot of people would say DaBoy over Jozy, but there isn’t much on field to justify it, Jozy has been far more effective in MLS the past two seasons)

        Altidore vs Beasley/Villafana/Garza – So this would be the move FJ to midfield by removing a striker move. Altidore is far better player than any of these options at LB. It gets a little more confusing because you should figure Jozy and LB Fabian vs Bease/Jorge/Garza and LM Fabian. (Altidore)

        The bottom line is Jozy is one of our top players and if he is better with another striker, then that is what we do. You can experiment all you want in the GC this Summer, but these next two matches aren’t a time to try out something new.

      • Johnny you are talking specifically about these next two qfers which makes sense, but only because there are circumstances that make things difficult (Yedlin being injured and I think Chandler suspended for first game??). But overall you are making Altidore more important than he actually is.

        You say, “Altidore vs Beasley/Villafana/Garza – So this would be the move FJ to midfield by removing a striker move. Altidore is far better player than any of these options at LB.” Completely disagree. Put FJ in midfield and there are plenty of fullback options (Yedlin, Chandler, Cameron, Lichaj, Garza, Villafana, Beasley, Zusi, Besler, etc).

        F.Johnson—Take Your Pick——Pulisic

        And then two of the usual suspects (Bradley, Jones, Lletget, Nagbe, Williams, Kitchen, blah blah).

        In the “take your pick spot”: Sacha, Benny, Pulisic (you move someone like Morris or Zardes to his wing spot), Nagbe, Green, etc, etc.. we all know the “creative players” in the pool by now. Altidore is not a must start. Even though I know he will for these two upcoming games.

      • UCLA- If you notice I said the Altidore vs LB spot is more complex because it involves the move of Fabian.

        However, you are still removing your third all-time scorer, your number one scorer last year, the leading American scorer in MLS when you include the playoffs for Garza who has played seven matches over the last three seasons, Beasley who maybe won’t lose you a game but won’t win you anything either, and Villafana who can’t get on the field for a mid range LigaMx club because he was beaten out by a 19 year old.

        The problem with this team the last 18 months has been midfield, fix the midfield by putting better players there or by giving them better direction on how to connect with one another, not by taking out one of your five best players.

  5. I think that he has too. He is a better two way player, better on the ball, and makes the runs you want out of a single striker. I don’t think he has the skill set to play alone up top. Heck Morris might even be a better choice at the moment. Jozy is great don’t get me wrong but I’m not a fan of big guys that flop like he does. I respect him and what he has done for us however with the ever better skill sets surrounding him, he will just continue to look worse until he is replaced.

  6. He certainly should. He plays as a lone striker at Hamburg and Altidore has made his preference to play with a second striker known. And…Wood is just better and harder working than Altidore.

    • I may be out of the loop, but what indication do we have that a 4-3-3 is what Bruce plans on running? Especially with him wanting to introduce Fabian Johnson to the midfield exclusively, I doubt we see it. I think we’re more inclined to see a 4-2-3-1 or a traditional 4-4-2 under Bruce and with our current pool.

      Another thing to consider is Altidore, historically for the USMNT, plays a lot better with a partner up top. So, why not both up top?

      • Yeah these qualifiers are no time to mess around really. I expect a 4-4-2 with Jozy and Wood up top. The real mystery will be what Bruce decides to do in the midfield and LB/RB….especially since Yedlin could be out.

      • This is true and makes sense, but for me, personally, Altidore slows down the attack more often than not. I also feel his lack of work rate in defense also weakens the the team’s ability to press. I like wood’s mobility and flexibility as lone striker along with the attacking qualities of Johnson and Pulisic from midfield to combine to make our team more dynamic.

        I could be wrong but I prefer this approach at this point.

    • With the Galaxy Arena almost always played a straight 4-4-2. Maybe there were times I don’t recall, but I don’t remember him playing anything else and I must have seen close to 90% of their games under Arena. He also likes to utilize speedy wingers from the midfield when he has them, which could mean Pulisic and maybe F Johnson on the wings. Then the question is who joins Bradley in midfield–Nagbe, Kljestan, Lletget, Feilhaber, or ?. Given that we are playing a weaker opponent and are playing at home, I will be very surprised if the US doesn’t come out in full attack mode from the beginning with two strikers and several others from midfield trying to overwhelm Honduras’ defense.


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