For some time Real Salt Lake, due to governance and financial constraints, has been limited in the type of players they are able to bring in from outside the organization.
Reluctance, in many cases, to pay a major transfer fee has forced the team to search for two types of players. The first type are more established players who are out of contract and available on a “free” transfer. The second type are youthful up-and-comers who have yet to prove themselves in a major league or are available on a “loan” basis.
Bobby Wood, who had a good run in Bundesliga and the USMNT during the 2018 World Cup cycle, is an example of the first type of player. From the high of featuring on a team in the 1st Division, through team demotion and injury. Wood reached the point where he had fallen to simply looking for a way to get back on the field and attract notice. Wood was on the field for only a combined total of 457 minutes during the 2019/20 and 2020/21 seasons in Germany before he signed with Real Salt Lake to take effect on July 1, 2021.
During the later half of RSL’s 2021 season, Bobby, who continued to be plagued with injuries, made a total of 20 appearances and 7 starts without a single complete game. His total of 715 minutes for RSL in 2021 averages out to about 32 minutes an appearances which is about what you would expect from a first choice substitute who frequently come in around the 60th minute. His three goals all contributed to a RSL victory against Colorado Rapids (July 21), Austin FC (Aug. 15) and Sporting KC (Nov. 28). The last two, as well as his penalty kick against Seattle (Nov. 23), were all game winners.
Even with two more years on his contract with Real Salt Lake, Bobby will need to force himself into a regular starting position and avoid injury in 2022. With the departure of Albert Rusnak, Wood’s guaranteed compensation is currently the 4th highest on the squad at just under $1 million a year. Rubio Rubin, an example of second youthful type of player without big league experience prior to signing with RSL, comes in at substantially less than that level of compensation, even after renegotiating his deal to run for another three years. Rubin contributed 2,443 minutes and 8 goals in a full season for RSL in 2021. While there could be room for both of them up top in 2022, Wood will need to overcome his lingering injury history, as well as Father Time, as he will be 31 by the time his current contract expires.
Only time will tell if Bobby Wood can rise back to his former level and feature again, not only on the national stage, but for RSL. However, he is running out of time and needs to begin during the 2022 season. Will he contribute a Golden Boot-type season with 2,200 to 2,500 minutes and double digit goals in 2022, or is he destined to be included in the long list of recent RSL signing failures, like Giuseppe Rossi, Alfredo Ortuño, and the second-coming of Yura Movsisyan.