Who’s Better, Wood or Wondo?

July 1, 2016

Edit: I mistakenly gave Wondo 19 minutes versus Belgium, when he played 48 minutes. His stats have been updated accordingly

Yesterday I released a new pod, and one of the listeners said I lost credibility when I said that Wondo is better than Bobby Wood. Admittedly it’s my opinion since I love my Quakes, but saying that I lose credibility as a soccer analyst is a ludicrous statement, especially when the stats are on my side: Wondo has more goals in less minutes. But does this necessarily make Wondo better?

The common knock against Wondo is his competition. Wondo doesn’t play top competition (more for lack of opportunity) as much as Wood, so Wood’s numbers will naturally be smaller. Adjust your numbers for competition, and you’ll see Wood is statistically better. Curious to see if this is true, I compiled a list of all opponents both Wood and Wondo have played and their FIFA ranking at the time of the match for each player’s USMNT career.

FIFA Competition Average
Wood 43.25
Wondo 58.625

Statistically, it’s true that Wondo has had an easier time with opponents. In his 34 caps, the opponent’s average FIFA ranking is 59. That’s pretty high. But then when I crunched Bobby’s FIFA rankings, it turns out that his opponents’ average FIFA ranking is 43, which questions the theory that Wood only plays against top competition. Yes, Wondo has had an easier go with opponents, but Wood has had his share of cake walks, hence the two should be statistically similar.

BUT! Let’s play devil’s advocate. Wondo is getting somewhat easier opponents, and if Wondo is getting somewhat easier opponents, he must has “somewhat” better numbers, right?

When analyzing each player’s production per 90 minutes played (the stat divided by the total minutes for each player, then multiplied by 90), Wondo blows away Wood in every significant category for forwards.

Goals per 90 Shots per 90 Shots on goal per 90
Wood 0.42 1.76 0.84
Wondo  0.79 3.39 1.97

Wood averages 0.42 goals per 90 minutes he plays. Wondo nearly doubles that at 0.81 0.79. Wood averages 1.76 shots per game. Wondo nearly doubles that at 3.49 3.39. Wood averages 0.84 shots on goal per 90. Wondo is 2.3 times better. With Wondo putting up so many shots on goal, it’s no wonder he is doubling Wood’s production. Should a difference between an average FIFA ranking of 43 and 59 cause one player to put up numbers twice as good as another? Of course not, especially considering both players are playing “down” to their competition.

But Wondo has two big misses! So does every other member of the national team, yet Wondo is the only one that gets held to that standard, which cause people to really believe Wood is better than Wondo.

Still don’t believe me? Let’s look at Wood’s recent form. Any impartial observer of the USMNT will tell you that Wood’s 2016 has been nothing short of awful, and to say that he’s better than Wondo right now is being more of a Bobby Wood fanboi than an analyst. In 2016, Wood has 761 minutes, 2 goals, 2 assists, a 0.95 shots per 90 average, and a 0.35 shots on goal per 90 average. Wood averaged less than a shot a game and only put a shot on goal every three games against competition which included Guatemala (TWICE), Puerto Rico, Bolivia, and Paraguay, a combined FIFA world ranking average of 93.2.

The reason why people think Wood is better than Wondo is not based on stats or evidence, but opinion. People have a tainted view of Wondo because he missed against Belgium, and it’s easy to hate the guy that let down the team/nation on soccer’s biggest stage. Yet Wondo’s numbers and career have proven he is a bona fide goal scorer. I can’t say the same for Wood, especially given his awful 2016. Hopefully that will change.

Finally a point of clarification: I do NOT hate Bobby Wood. I think he has a great future. But Wood’s career with the USMNT, and his 2016 especially, have proven that players play all manner of competition, and it’s your performance on the field that counts regardless of who you are playing. This is why I can say I feel Wondo is better than Wood, and not lose credibility.

These numbers are career U.S. Men’s National Team numbers for both Bobby Wood and Chris Wondolowski as of the date of this article. Nothing was omitted and no specific “data samples” selected to prove a point. Nothing but career stats on goals, shots, and shots on goals, the marks of a quality forward, lest anyone accuse me of manipulating the numbers.

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