Andrew Wooten’s arrival was a big hit on South Street in June, but his first three months in MLS haven’t initially met the high expectations in the room when he came out on stage with the Men In Blazers during a live podcast at the Theater of Living Arts.
The soon-to-be 30-year-old — his birthday is next week — has made just five appearances and two starts and fans are still waiting to see him do something he did quite frequently with SV Sandhausen: find the back of the net. Though he scored against Pumas UNAM in a friendly on September 7, Wooten’s last appearance in league play was on August 17 and he wasn’t even in the 18 in Sunday night’s 2-0 loss at New York Red Bulls.
“Unfortunately, it can only be 18 players on the team in the 18 roster but I worked hard in training and just waited for my chance and I’m glad that it’s here now and I hope I can show (fans) what I can do,” Wooten said after training in San Jose on Tuesday.
Part of the reason Wooten’s opportunities have been limited in recent weeks has been the formation head coach Jim Curtin has been using, favoring the 4-2-3-1 over the 4-4-2 in the games against Atlanta United FC, LAFC and the Red Bulls. With Kacper Przybylko leading the offense up top and Santos giving Curtin a combination of speed on the wing, it’s left Wooten the odd man out.
But an injury late in the Red Bulls match to Santos, who is expected to miss another week and a half to two weeks with a grade 1 hamstring strain reopened the door for Wooten heading into three critical games down the stretch with the conference title and a Champions League berth still within reach.
“It’s a big opportunity for Andrew,” Curtin said on Tuesday.
Wooten last started in a 5-1 win against DC United on August 4 and picked up an assist on Alejandro Bedoya’s third minute goal. Pairing with Przybylko is something that is a definite possibility again for an offense that has scored just five goals in the six games since.
“He’s playing a very good season and I’m very proud of him,” Wooten said of Przybylko, who he knew during their time playing against each other in Germany. “I know how he plays, he knows how I play so it’s kind of easy to do the things that we do on the pitch.”
Przybylko is two goals shy of tying CJ Sapong’s franchise record for goals in a season with 16. The Union will likely need him to break that record if they are to finish higher than their third place in the standings. Wooten turning it on would be an added bonus.
“We have a lot of confidence even though we lost the last game,” Wooten said. “We know what we can do and what we’re capable of.”
Working his way into the lineup as a mid-summer addition has presented its challenges, particularly for a player who has spent his whole career in Germany and was tasked with getting back into fitness in the summer heat in Philadelphia.
“In the beginning it was very hard, it was a lot different than in Germany, the humidity was much different,” Wooten said. “But the players made it very easy for me. I’ve got a lot of friends on the team and we all get along. Now I just have to show them on the pitch what I can do.”
Tonight’s game against the San Jose Earthquakes kicks off at 11 p.m. eastern time and will be broadcast live on the Live Well Network and streamed in-market on PhiladelphiaUnion.com.