Now that the Philadelphia Union have landed summer freebie Andrew Wooten from German club Sandhausen, there are probably plenty of observers around MLS wondering how to evaluate the move for the current Eastern Conference leaders.
Some of you will be fairly aware of the fringe US forward's attributes, while plenty of others might not be familiar with him at all.
So, what exactly can you expect? Let's peel back the layers.
Who is he?
Born in Bamberg, Germany to a German mother and an American serviceman father, Wooten is a 29-year-old forward coming off the best season of his career. He leaves Sandhausen as the club's all-time top professional scorer with 50 goals (from the end of World War II until 1978, the club played in amateur leagues). He has one US men’s national team cap, handed out by Jurgen Klinsmann back in October of 2015.
Wooten came up through the youth ranks at Wormatia Worms, a fourth-tier club located about halfway between Frankfurt and Kaiserslautern. After about 18 months in the first team, he moved to K-Town to join the Red Devils. He bagged 15 goals in his second season with Kaiserslautern II and then followed that up with a 20-goal campaign that earned him a seven-game cup of coffee with their Bundesliga first team. His lone goal in seven top-flight outings was a winner at Hertha Berlin.
After starting the next campaign with three goals in his first three Kaiserslautern II matches, Wooten was sent on loan to second-flight Sandhausen. He needed just six weeks to claim a starting job and finished the campaign with seven goals. Despite Kaiserslautern being relegated the following season, playing time hard to come by for Wooten and he was loaned out to nearby 2. Bundesliga rivals FSV Frankfurt. That’s where he hit four times in 14 matches to help them avoid the drop.
In the summer of 2014, he was snapped up on a full transfer by Sandhausen. Wooten put together campaigns of eight, six and 11 goals before the two longest injury lay-offs of his career limited him to just six appearances in 2017-18. While recovering the muscle problems that plagued his season, the striker was given a new nutrition program. It worked wonders, as he stayed fit through all of last season to fire home 17 tallies. Not only did that haul tie Bobby Wood's record for goals by an American during a single 2. Bundesliga season, but it also essentially spared Sandhausen from relegation.
It would be unfair to call Wooten a one-trick pony, but there's no getting around the fact that he thrives in the 18-yard box. He's mobile, physical and clever enough to gain a yard, and can finish in a variety of ways once he finds space.
Though a natural righty, he can score with either foot. Wooten is also solid in the air, and quite accurate with headed shots. From about a step or two beyond the area and on in, he's rather efficient with chances. The 17 goals he chalked up last season came on just 51 shots.
It's not just about numbers, as Wooten tends to score clutch goals. During his Sandhausen tenure, he hit 20 winners. Twelve of those came in the last half hour of games and half of those occurred inside the final eight minutes. He's also quite dependable from the penalty spot, going 18-of-20 as a pro.
While he's not one to dribble past opponents, Wooten does have enough guile with his runs to get behind the back line and enough pace with the ball at his feet to gain the requisite separation. Wooten can also pitch in with some adequate hold-up play, so long as he's not counted on to be the main attack fulcrum.
It's safe to say that nobody should expect much in the way of defensive involvement from Philly's new striker. He'll probably also need some tutelage and time to pick up high-press duties from boss Jim Curtin.
Though a decent passer in possession, Wooten goes through stretches when his first touch gets loose. It's not an epidemic-level problem, but he did commit at least four turnovers in 14 of his 31 league games last season.
Additionally, Wooten certainly won't be confused for a set-up man in the final third; he's much more interested in being the one to cap moves. He's managed just 13 assists in 176 career Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga outings, and just one in his last 43 contests.
Wooten's new fitness regimen should continue to serve him well in a league with longer travel and muggier temperatures than he experienced in Germany. What's more, the Union's hard-charging, playmake-by-committee midfield group will reduce his workload and allow the goal-getter to focus on what he does best.
Truth be told, Wooten may be just what Philadelphia needs to ascend to true contender status.
The Union's new forward will be eligible starting on July 9, leaving him the final 13 games of the regular season, plus a possible playoff spell, to make an introductory impact. Wooten should be good for at least a half-dozen goals in the 2019 season, and counted on to reach double figures fairly comfortably next year