Postcard from Europe: Wooten aims for Olympic spot
AMSTERDAM — Kaiserslautern II prospect and US Olympic hopeful Andrew Wooten may be a man of few words, but he more than makes up for it by communicating through goals.
It's not a case of the 22-year-old striker having dual-nationality struggles with the English language, that's for sure. In fact, Wooten has been comfortably familiar with all things American his entire life.
"I go to Virginia, where my dad's from, every year," Wooten – a Bamberg, Germany, native – told MLSsoccer.com from the Red Devils training ground. "We go on vacation for two or three weeks."
No, he expresses himself very well. It's just that Wooten is direct and concise when he speaks, which matches the way he plays. Of course, when you've hit six goals in the last four Regionalliga West games, there's not much need to do a lot of talking.
Wooten currently stands third in Germany's fourth tier with 12 goals on the season. Those performances not only have him fighting for an Olympic place, they have him on alert for the call from first-team manager Marco Kurz. Kaiserslautern have the weakest offense in the Bundesliga with just 15 goals in 21 matches, so Wooten's ears are duly perked.
"I would say it's really close," he guessed of potential graduation to the famed Fritz-Walter Stadion side. "I'm practicing with the first team the whole time. The coach says to keep working really hard, and that's what I'm doing. Some time soon, I hope I can get my chance."
With his goals making noise in Germany and a contract set to end this summer, Wooten has been hearing a fair share of calls coming from other clubs interested in his services.
He admits to interest from each of the top three divisions in Germany, and MLSsoccer.com can confirm that 2.Bundesliga outfit 1860 Munich are among those to have dialed up his agent in recent months. Kaiserslautern have a relegation fight to worry about now, but they have asked Wooten for extension talks in May.
"They said they're going to keep looking at me and at the end of the season, we are going to sit down at the table to discuss this," he said. "We have to see what will happen."
And while Wooten is well-versed in American ways, he says playing for the United States in the Olympics was never something that crossed his mind until he took part in the first camp last November.
He's never been called by Germany at any age level and greatly enjoys playing with the rest of the players in the US Under-23 pool, so he says switching to his country of birth isn't an option. True to form, Wooten's quickly lit the US Olympic lamp.
"It would be amazing and unbelievable," he declared, for once grasping at what to say. "I can't put in words how much it would mean to me to go to the Olympics."
The 4-3-3 system preferred by U-23 boss Caleb Porter is new to Wooten, but he says it also happens to be right up his alley. After all, he's a power forward that simply wants to get his team forward with helpful touches before plowing the road to goal.
"I think I'm adapting pretty well," said Wooten of the Olympic team tactics. "I think I've got everything a striker needs. I'll just keep working hard to try to make the team."
Though he hasn't yet heard whether he's called up for the Mexico friendly at month's end, his fingers are crossed.
Wooten doesn’t hesitate when asked whose set-ups he likes finishing the most, quickly rattling off the names of Juan Agudelo, Teal Bunbury, Freddy Adu and Joseph Gyau — a close friend playing club ball nearby that he aims to follow out of the German reserve ranks.
"I talk to Joe a lot," he said. "He's on the first team at Hoffenheim now and putting in good work. That's what I want to do."
Rising to the Kaiserslautern first team, looming extension talks and the continued survival fight is enough to get anyone feeling scattered. Adding an Olympic dream to that mixture complicates things even further.
But like a goal monster in mid-rampage, Wooten keeps it all straightforward and simple. He's knows he's moving in the right direction, patiently waiting for his shot.
"I just want to make the Olympics, play in a lot of good games and score as many goals as I can," Wooten plainly stated. "And if I keep working hard, I'll get my chance to do that."