Analysis / Union

Analysis: Union sign striker Andrew Wooten

Photo courtesy Philadelphia Union

Philadelphia Union have a new striker.

Andrew Wooten (pronounced “VOO-ten”), 29, joins the Union from Sandhausen in the 2.Bundesliga, where his contract had expired.

The Union used targeted allocation money to sign Wooten, a German-American. The striker will join Philadelphia when the transfer window opens on July 9, meaning that the Union will play four more matches before Wooten is officially added to the roster.

In 2017-18, Wooten nearly singlehandedly saved Sandhausen from relegation, with a scorching 13 goals in the final 18 matches of the regular season. Wooten has spent his entire professional career in Germany, beginning with Wormatia Worms in the fourth division in 2008. Wooten has also played for FC Kaiserslautern and FSV Frankfurt.

Born and raised in Germany, Wooten has earned one cap for the United States men’s national team, coming in 2015. He will wear the number 7 shirt for Philadelphia.

Let’s break down what this means for the Union.

Aggressive Ernst

When was the last time the Union made any moves of note during the summer transfer window?

You have to go all the way back to 2016. That summer, the Union brought in then-record signing Alejandro Bedoya, who is, of course, still with the club. They also traded Sebastien Le Toux for Charlie Davies and signed Kevin Kratz as part of a wink-wink deal with Atlanta United. So, a mixed bag.

However, the Union went through both the summers of 2017 and 2018 without acquiring any players. (Kacper Przybylko was technically a late signing in 2018, but due to an injury he was never intended to play a part in that campaign.)

Both of those teams needed reinforcements that ultimately failed to arrive, and both teams collapsed down the stretch.

The 2019 Union are in much better shape, both in terms of form and in terms of overall talent, than either of those squads. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to upgrade the side.

With the Wooten signing, Ernst Tanner has acted aggressively to make sure that at least one necessary reinforcement is en route.

Strike-r while the iron is hot

Make no mistake: striker is the one position where the Union absolutely needed another body.

With Cory Burke in Jamaica, Jim Curtin’s recent options have been Kacper Przybylko, Sergio Santos, and Fafa Picault.

None of those options are entirely convincing. Przybylko burst onto the scene with goals in his first three starts, but has only one in the seven matches since. Santos has been plagued with injury this season and is yet to go a full 90 minutes. Picault, a natural winger, often looks lost at striker and is not exactly a clinical finisher.

Adding Wooten to that group changes the dynamic. With more trustworthy options, manager Jim Curtin has the ability to play the hot hand when necessary, while (hopefully) having a quick hook for guys who are out of form. The Union should also have the ability to play tactically, using different pairings for different matchups. And if Wooten lives up to his potential — more on that in a minute — they might have the sort of reliable striker who can carry you through a deep playoff run.

One last thought: consider how much the Union’s striker depth chart has changed in less than a year.

  • End of 2018: Cory Burke, C.J. Sapong, David Accam (out – injured), Fafa Picault (primarily a winger), Jay Simpson, Kacper Przybylko (out – injured).
  • Summer 2019: Andrew Wooten, Sergio Santos, Kacper Przybylko, Fafa Picault, Cory Burke (out – visa issues), Michee Ngalina.
Woot-en can we expect?

Much of the above analysis is premised on Wooten being a starting-caliber striker in MLS — not necessarily a superstar, but someone who can reliably put the ball in the back of the net.

Can he be that player?

  • The case for. At 29, Wooten is in the prime of his career, and his scalding-hot stretch for Sandhausen demonstrates that he’s the kind of striker capable of putting together truly great runs of form. The 2.Bundesliga isn’t a league to sneeze at — after all, Kai Wagner is impressing coming over from the 3.Bundesliga — and Wooten should be able to adjust quickly to MLS. He’s also the sort of veteran who should pair well with two younger, up-and-coming options in Santos and Przybylko.
  • The case against. Or maybe Wooten is a journeyman who got hot at the right time — just before his contract expired. In his five seasons with Sandhausen, Wooten’s season goalscoring totals are eight, six, nine, zero (injury), and 17. Which one of those numbers looks like the outlier? Rather than betting on upside, as the Union did with Santos, Tanner may have spent resources on a guy who’s unlikely to ever repeat his 2018-19 campaign.

The Union are in an unusual place — for perhaps the first time in franchise history, they have a legitimate chance to win the Eastern Conference.

For the aforementioned reasons, the Wooten signing is far from a sure thing on the field.

But as a sign of the club’s ambition this season, it’s undeniably a positive one.

14 Comments

  1. Thanks for the update, I like that they made a move for a position in need. Looks like Wagner will have a new locker next to him. “Not exactly a clinical finisher” is a very kind description of Picault’s recent run of play, it’d be great to see him get a run of goals to help his team and his own confidence.

  2. pragmatist says:

    To your last point about how good he really is, we need to phrase that within the context of possible moves by this team. While Precourt is sniffing around Chicharito, and Beckham is lining up Suarez, the Union were never going to sign someone who commands big dollars. This was most likely the best option in their price range.
    .
    I’m not an expert on scouting world soccer and the lower divisions, so maybe there is some gem hiding in the Colombian league or something, but you get the feeling that Wooten was a pretty solid addition compared to what they would have had available to them.
    .
    I also form an opinion based on the rumors that he was a wanted man in leagues around the globe. Not EPL, or Bundesliga, or the other top leagues, necessarily, but he was not going to be out of contract through the end of the month. It’s encouraging to win a few of these contests for players.

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      Agreed with your second and third points. Union are never signing the huge name, but with Tanner’s perceived ability to continually find some nice players in the lower leagues – we don’t need that big name… for now. Wooten seems like a nice player, who has some skill, has had recent success, won’t cost us an international roster spot, and fills a need. Can’t beat that.
      .
      It’s now the second time (Santos), a player was coveted by another team or teams and the Union won his services. It says a lot about Tanner (and Albright as well) that they are able to get it done. Not something we have ever really had in Union history.

      • pragmatist says:

        Yeah, I feel like this is a signing that should make us happy, but should not be looked at as some type of Zlatan-like move. Be happy we got a guy that has a pretty good resume and that we were able to beat out other teams again. It’s nice to be on this side of things.

  3. Fair analysis. Thank you.

  4. No mention directly, but I assume this is NOT an International Roster spot given dual citizenship?

    • Yes, Wooten is an American citizen and does not require an international roster spot.

    • Old Soccer Coach says:

      Which further means he does NOT need a P-1 Visa from the U. S. Department of State.
      .
      Last January and February those were moving slowly, for various reasons located in the political situation. And of course Cory Burke is now in the process of re-applying for one.
      .

  5. If there is any position on the pitch where you play Moneyball, it’s striker.

    The guys who can guarantee you 15+ goals per season cost you many millions of dollars — which apparently Sugarman doesn’t have. If instead you spend on guys who have a fair chance of getting you 10 goals per season, you spend an order of magnitude less. Then you get several of them, figuring that at least one will turn out good.

    I like the odds that between Kasper, Santos, and Wooten, we’ll have somebody in good form to put the ball in the net. (At least for the first 60 minutes until Ilsinho Time…)

    • Bob Dobalina says:

      I agree. If he can score .35 goals per 90 minutes (about 10/year) he’s a solid addition. Any more than that is gravy.

  6. Transfermarkt says he’s worth a million and on the rise:

    https://www.transfermarkt.com/andrew-wooten/profil/spieler/67407

    That is twice Santo’s perceived value. I will take that player any day of the week for the union.

    Per transfermarkt: with Monteiro (1.75M), Fabian (2.0M), Bedoya (1.5M), at midfield & Wooten (1.0M) and Santos (500K) up top, that is a value of $6,750,000 committed to the Union front 5 or $1.35M average. We can’t say they’re not opening their wallets any more, even though that is not what the players are actually being paid.

  7. I love the ambition they showed with this move- Ernst is not satisfied with just being in first place halfway through the season. He has higher goals.

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