Via Germany, Hawaiian Bobby Wood Finds a Home with the U-20 MNT
U.S. U-20 MNT forward Bobby Wood has lived the teenage soccer player’s dream. Having a successful trial at 13 years old and moving to Europe at 14, Wood has made a home at 1860 Munich and graduated to the first team this season. He was called into a camp with U-20 coach Thomas Rongen in April 2010, and has been a mainstay ever since. Now at his first CONCACAF event, Wood scored the opener in the USA’s 4-0 win against Suriname and looks to be a key part of the team’s qualifying campaign.
ussoccer.com: What were you like as a young soccer player in California?
Bobby Wood: “I was born in Hawaii actually and moved to California when I was 11 with my mom and (now 16-year-old) sister. I started playing soccer when I was eight. Soccer in Hawaii wasn’t the best, not the same as it was in California, so it sort of took a while to get used to the level of soccer in California.”
When did soccer become serious for you?
BW: “At first I was just playing for fun, but I started getting serious about it when I made the ODP (Olympic Development Program) team. I just really liked it and just developed by playing a lot because of that. I was never on the national team consistently – I went into a camp with the U-17s, but this is my first consistent team. I played for Irvine Strikers and Don Ebert was definitely a big influence on me. We still talk quite a bit.”
How did the move to Germany come about?
BW: “There was someone in my area who knew the sporting director at 1860 Munich and got me a trial there. I got a trial when I was 13 and then they invited me to come full time six months later. I didn’t think they’d want me to come. I had just gone for the experience, but I guess I kind of got lucky and they invited me over.”
What was the adjustment like for a 14 year old in a completely new environment?
BW: “I actually moved with a friend, Kovi Konowiecki, who had played with me at Irvine Strikers. We both went over together and had a guardian there who was a friend of Kovi’s family. He watched over us for the first year and a half or so. For me the hardest part was the cultural adjustment. They’re a very serious culture and not the most open. It was hard to adapt, but having a friend there really helped.”
What was it like to come into this team without a lot of prior youth national team experience?
BW: “It’s great. It’s obviously an honor, and I love it. Not only do I get to spend time with Americans and speak English, I get to play for my country. It’s exciting to put on the jersey. I’m really proud and honored. I moved over to Germany so young and I didn’t feel like people really knew about me and I had only been in that one camp with the U-17s. But I’ve been with Thomas since training camp in April in Holland, and I’ve kind of stuck around.”
You guys have seemed to develop good chemistry pretty quickly. How does that happen, and does that translate onto the field?
BW: “The guys on this team are all great. Our chemistry is amazing, and we have a great time together on and off the field. It’s a really good group. I get excited to come into camp and to see everyone. It translates onto the field because we know when we need to work harder for each other. We can feel each other’s movements and just really work well together.”
You are a pretty quiet guy overall, surely there is something about you that people don’t know about …
BW: [laughing] "Well, I really like Japanese anime and I watch a lot of kids shows in general - Sponge Bob, Jimmy Neutron … I miss those shows back in Germany. I have also watched all seven seasons of Desperate Housewives. Joe and I iChat and I’ll be watching Desperate Housewives on my computer and he’ll be watching it on his.”