Andrew Wooten, who has made one senior appearance for the USMNT so far, has been in electric form for Sandhausen recently. - © imago images / Eibner
Andrew Wooten, who has made one senior appearance for the USMNT so far, has been in electric form for Sandhausen recently. - © imago images / Eibner
bundesliga

Andrew Wooten: Could the Sandhausen striker be a dark horse to fire Gregg Berhalter's USA side to Gold Cup glory?

If you're scratching your head and wondering who on earth Andrew Wooten is, you're probably not alone. But USA head coach Gregg Berhalter could do worse than take a closer look at the most prolific American striker currently in professional soccer as he looks to guide the Stars and Stripes to Gold Cup glory this summer.

Wooten laces his boots for SV Sandhausen in Bundesliga 2, and has almost single-handedly hauled his team off the foot of the table and out of the relegation zone in recent weeks.

Born in Bamberg, northern Bavaria to a US serviceman father and a German mother, the 6'1" forward had spells at Kaiserslautern and FSV Frankfurt before signing on permanently in Sandhausen in July 2014.

With 15 Bundesliga 2 goals this season - and eight in his last nine games - Wooten is in red hot form. - imago images / Jan Huebner

Wooten missed the vast majority of 2017/18 due to a series of muscular and hamstring injuries and was also unable to take part in Sandhausen's pre-season training this term due to muscular complaints. However, after fighting his way back to fitness – and scoring five times before the winter break – he has hit top form when it matters most.

The 29-year-old has found the net 10 times in 13 games since the turn of the year and is currently the fourth top scorer in Germany's second tier, setting a new club record for goals in a single season along the way (the previous best-mark was 14).

Sandhausen coach Uwe Koschinat has praised his "power" and "ability to score regularly", factors that have been crucial in lifting a team bottom of the table at the beginning of March to four points clear of the drop zone with three games left to play. They have earned that breathing space thanks to a run of five wins and two draws – with Wooten hitting seven in that period.

Muscular, quick and with a good eye for goal, Wooten has all the attributes to succeed at international level. - imago/masterpress

He is not exactly an unknown quantity at the US Soccer Federation either. Wooten took part in a U23 camp in 2011 and was talented enough to persuade former USMNT boss Jürgen Klinsmann to give him his senior international debut in October 2015, coming off the bench in the 72nd minute of a 1-0 defeat to Costa Rica.

And with Berhalter eager to lay down a marker at his first major tournament in charge of the side – not to mention to pull level with regional rivals Mexico on seven Gold Cup trophies – who better than a regular goalscorer to fire the team to glory when the competition kicks off on 15 June?

Of the six forwards in Berhalter's most recent roster for the matches against Ecuador and Chile in March, nobody even comes close to Wooten for form. Jordan Morris has the best minutes-per-goal ratio (224) with three in eight outings this season; Christian Ramirez has two in eight games, Gyasi Zardes three in nine, Paul Arriola one in nine, Corey Baird none in seven and Jonathan Lewis none in six. By way of comparison Wooten is averaging a goal every 143 minutes.

Wooten (l.) with former Hoffenheim and USMNT midfielder Danny Williams (r.) ahead of a pre-season friendly between Sandhausen and Huddersfield Town. - imago/Sportsword

Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC)  is another viable candidate, with five goals in the current MLS campaign, but he is out with a hamstring injury. Bobby Wood (Hannover) is likewise sidelined with a knee complaint and Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen) and Tim Weah (Celtic) are exciting young prospects, but haven't been playing regularly at senior level this term. Julian Green (Greuther Fürth), a regular in US rosters, is also in Bundesliga 2 with Wooten, but only has three goals to his name in 2018/19.

Yet regardless of the competition for places, Wooten is a worthy contender in his own right. His current purple patch merely serves to underline his quality when playing regularly: the nine goals and four assists he registered in 23 games during his last injury-free spell in 2016/17 are testament to that.

In current form, Wooten could well be a not-so-surprising inclusion when Berhalter announces his squad for the Gold Cup in May.