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When Underdogs Win: Bobby Wood
Bobby Wood may not be the underdog of underdogs, but the situation he found himself in over the past week was one that rings with the universal truth of what it means to fight against the odds. The understudy to the understudies of Jurgen Klinsmann's preferred starters, Bobby seized his opportunities and became a giant. 


By: Christopher McCollum

In the past week, Bobby Wood has gone from a “maybe sometime in the future” player for the U.S. National Team to a “I love this kid and want him on my team right now” player.

 

He did this by doing what all successful underdogs do: He seized opportunities when they came to him. After being involved in Jurgen Klinsmann’s lineups over the past several sets of games, his performances have largely been disappointing on the whole, despite the underlying promise of something better on the horizon. This past week in frendlies against the Netherlands and Germany, he showed what that promise can be, making his story a successful one.

Wood isn’t the traditional underdog. The 22-year old striker been plying his trade in Germany for several years now, beginning with 1860 Munich’s reserve team and working his way up to the first team. Despite the promise that’s always been there, it’s been unfulfilled on many levels. As a striker, he looked threatening when he could but as we all know, a striker lives to score goals. One who isn’t scoring goals isn’t doing his job and is thus expendable.

It was the same for Bobby, who, despite his promise, found himself on the outs at 1860 Munich. It came because of a number of reasons, and there were plenty of people in the U.S. National Team fan base that called for Jurgen Klinsmann to stop calling up the kid who couldn’t score.

Maybe Klinsmann would have taken a break on calling up Wood if Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore were both available for selection this past week, or if a number of other promising young players weren’t on U-20 duty. Maybe Wood would have watched the two games from his living room. Afterall, he was a promising player but he had been missing key opportunities to score important goals in his first few opportunities with the team, and forwards are ill advised to be wasteful with their chances.

Whatever the case may have been had player personnel options been different, Wood received another set of call-ups in order to make cameo appearances behind Aron Johannsson and Gyasi Zardes. Bobby was an underdog in this situation, a striker close to the same age as the starters ahead of them, but less accomplished and viewed with lower regard by fans and media. Bobby was the underdog, and this time he showed his improvement in finishing from previous opportunities, and made himself a National Team legend by seizing what was in front of him and making the most of it.

The game-winning 90th minute goal against the Netherlands to complete a 4-3 comeback win and the game-winning 87th minute goal against Germany to complete a 2-1 comeback win, and Bobby Wood will live on forever as the giant killer who toppled two of the best teams in the world on their own turf. The Hawaiian-born forward cemented his involvement in the team going forward by doing what successful underdogs do best: Taking advantage of the few opportunities they have to shine, and making themselves memorable.

It’s the same concept as going on trial; you’re automatically the underdog, and you have a very limited selection of opportunities to impress the boss and your teammates. Every mistake you make is emphasized by you being new, by you being unknown, by you being the young upstart trying to take a veteran’s job. You have to make the most of your few opportunities and you have to leave a lasting impression, you have to leave with everyone there remembering your name, your face, and how they want you to be on the team.

It may be a different landscape because Bobby Wood is already an established professional, but the idea is the same: Somewhere, he’s somebody. Just like you. Where he was striving to be, he was nobody. Just like you. Just another player who may or may not be good enough for that level. And just like you need to do, Bobby seized the opportunity in front of him and catapulted himself into the memories of everyone who matters.

There are countless forwards in U.S. National Team history who have the same number of appearances as Bobby and then never came back, because they didn’t seize the opportunities given to them. Bobby decided he wasn’t going to be another one, and when you have a similar opportunities to make your mark and create lasting memories of yourself, you need to do the same thing. Maybe your goals won’t come against the Netherlands or Germany, but a goal for a Second Division Icelandic team and a goal for a Portuguese Premier League team are just as important in the eyes of their managers as National Team goals are in the eyes of Jurgen Klinsmann.