The Bundesliga attracts top foreign players from every corner of the globe, but few have ever made the long journey from Hawaii to Germany’s top flight. Following US international Bobby Wood’s signing for VfB Stuttgart, a new pin can be stuck in the global map of the Bundesliga’s foreign legion.
It may have been a case of ‘Bobby who?’ for German football viewers who don’t look below the top league, but following consecutive game-winning goals against the Netherlands and Germany in the USMNT’s recent friendly wins, the name “Bobby Wood” has certainly gained in notoriety.
Born on the Hawaiian island of Honolulu, Wood’s family moved to Southern California when he was just 12-years-old. His mother encouraged him to take up ‘soccer’ as a way of utilising his sporting ability and getting rid of some of his plentiful energy.
His talent soon shone through, as he garnered attention from his displays in the youth ranks of the Irvine Strikers. At age 14, he was off to Europe on trial with 1860 Munich’s feelers reaching all the way across the Atlantic. Once again, his ability was quite evident and a pro-contract was signed at 16.
He made his first-team debut for the Löwen aged 18 and looked to have a bright future ahead of him. However, a serious knee injury whilst on US U-20 international duty set him back.
After a long recovery, he did make it back to 1860’s first team, but soon fell down the pecking order as his original promise was soon forgotten. A move to FC Erzgebirge Aue during the winter transfer window followed, but he failed to save the Veilchen from dropping into the third division despite some impressive displays (1860 pipped Aue to survival).
With Jürgen Klinsmann casting a wide net for new players for the recent friendlies, Wood got the chance to end his season on a high. He came on as a 65th-minute substitute in Amsterdam for Aron Jóhannsson and remarkably hit a 90th-minute winner for the US in a 4-3 win.
Five days later he was on target again, scoring the winner against the reigning world champions, again after coming off the bench. Two winning goals against two such high-profile opponents were always going to create headlines for the 22-year-old, but following VfB Stuttgart’s decision to sign the striker for next season for €1.2 million, he will be hoping to write a whole lot of new headlines in next season’s Bundesliga.
It is a long way from Honolulu (7528 miles to be precise!), but if he fulfills his potential at the Mercedes-Benz Arena, it will have been a journey well worth making.