- Wood the top-scoring American in a single German season.
- Now the first-choice striker for the USMNT.
- Fascinating journey from Honolulu to Hamburg.
One of the first names on Jürgen Klinsmann’s USMNT team sheet, Bobby Wood lit up Bundesliga 2 last term with 17 goals for 1. FC Union Berlin, but what else is there to know about the new Hamburger SV recruit?
bundesliga.com takes a closer look…
1) In the name
Born in Hawaii to an African-American father and Japanese mother, Wood's full name is Bobby Shou Wood. His middle name means 'longevity' in Chinese, and though he dropped its use early in his professional career, the striker's journey so far suggests that the meaning still resonates with him.
Wood's ambition was evident from an early age. He joined local Hawaiian outfit Powder Edge SC aged six, before moving to California at the still-tender age of 12. A move 6,000 kilometres away to Germany and TSV 1860 Munich's youth academy followed two years later. Wood did not speak a word of German, and struggled initially. "It was tough being away from home… not as laid back and friendly as California," he said. "I think the experience definitely made me stronger."
Nine years on and it would be impossible to disagree. Wood concluded the 2015/16 season with 17 goals as Union finished sixth in Bundesliga 2, earning a summer transfer to the Bundesliga's only ever-present club, Hamburg. Wood's goal haul took him past former Borussia Dortmund and 1. FSV Mainz 05 striker Conor Casey as the highest-scoring American in a single season in Germany's top two divisions.
Despite being immersed in German football since the age of 14, Wood's favourite team growing up was Arsenal FC, and their talisman Thierry Henry his sporting idol. "I can dribble left and right and get in behind the defence," Wood says of his own game. His performances over the last 12 months have made comparisons with the former French FIFA World Cup-winner seem progressively less outlandish.
5) Dodgers fan
Outside of football, Wood is an avid fan of other, more traditional, American sports. Wood enjoys bodysurfing in his native California, plays basketball in his spare time, and even threw the first pitch after enjoying a stadium tour of Major League Baseball's Los Angeles Dodgers' home venue recently.
6) Hawaiian pride
Wood made his USA debut in a 4-3 friendly win over Bosnia-Herzegovina in Sarajevo in August 2013, becoming just the second man from the 50th and most recent US state to run out for the USMNT after Brian Ching, and the third player to represent the nation outright, following the USWNT's Olympic gold medallist Tasha Kai.
7) Big-game player
If there is any concern at the Volksparkstadion that Wood might struggle to recreate last season's scoring feats at the top level, it would be worth noting the 23-year-old's happy habit of finding the target against the biggest opponents. Wood's first international goal was the winner in a 4-3 friendly win over the Netherlands in Amsterdam last June, and he sealed a 2-1 win over world champions Germany in Cologne five days later.
It could have worked out so differently. Wood had scored just six goals in 63 games in his first six Bundesliga 2 campaigns with 1860 and FC Erzgebirge Aue before a stern word from US coach Klinsmann at the start of last season. "You've got to make it this year, otherwise they're going to move you on," Klinsmann told the young forward. "That's how it works in Europe. At the age of 21, 22, you're an old player." Wood heeded the advice. "What [Klinsmann] said to me was the truth; it wasn't a threat… but I'm where I am now because I worked hard to get here."
9) Place in history
Hamburg will now boast both the first and the most recent Americans to play Bundesliga football. Wood is the sixth US player to turn out for the Red Shorts: Peter Woodring, Michael Mason, Benny Feilhaber and current FC Bayern München starlet Julian Green have also represented HSV since Hungary-born Andy Mate became the first American to play in Germany's top flight back in the 1964/65 season.
Wood enjoys close friendships with USMNT teammates DeAndre Yedlin and John Anthony Brooks. Hertha Berlin stalwart Brooks and Wood overlapped for one year in the German capital, and the three recently attended the NBA's Western Conference Finals between the Golden State Warriors and Oklahoma City Thunder together.