Andrew Wooten has been anticipating this weekend for far longer than just the time he's spent with the Union so far.
The team’s new striker has wanted to play in America for a few years. On Saturday, that time might come, when the Union visit Real Salt Lake (10 p.m., WPVI-6.2 and free online at the team’s website). It is the first game in which Wooten is eligible to play after moving to Philadelphia in late June.
While his international paperwork was clearing, Wooten took a few weeks to rest, then spent the last two weeks training with the team and settling in his new city.
“Those two weeks were very good for me to get my fitness level up,” he said Tuesday. “I got used to the weather and to all the training and all the stuff around it.”
Wooten, 29, was born in Bamberg, Germany, to an American serviceman father and a German mother. He grew up in Germany, except for one year after his parents separated, when he went with his father to Chesapeake, Va., at age 16. He spent that time a student at Deep Creek High School and didn’t play soccer.
"It was different," Wooten said. "But it was a great year. I have some good memories. A great experience to learn about the school system and everything."
Before the move, Wooten played in the youth ranks at well-known German club FC Kaiserslautern. He knew he wanted soccer to be his career, and he wanted to return to Germany instead of going to college. So, he moved back with his mother. His first pro club was the fourth division Wormatia Worms.
In 2009, Kaiserslautern signed Wooten to its reserve team. He earned a call-up in November 2011 from the U.S. under-23 team, and in 2012 he reached Kaiserslautern’s first team. He didn’t stick, though, and was loaned out twice. In 2014, Kaiserlsautern sold him to one of those clubs, SV Sandhausen.
Wooten had a hot start there, scoring game-winners in four straight contests in September 2014. He cooled off but had another hot streak to start the 2015-16 season, with six goals in six games.
“An amazing experience with all those great players,” he said. “I really miss it, and hopefully I will get another chance to experience that.”
Wooten fell off the radar but resurfaced last season with 17 goals in 32 games. He didn’t get a look for the Gold Cup roster, but some MLS teams were interested in signing him.
“When I heard the offer came from Philadelphia, I flew right over here and had some great talks with [sporting director] Ernst [Tanner] and [manager] Jim [Curtin]," he said. "It was clear that I wanted to play here and didn’t want to talk to nobody else in MLS, because they gave me such a good feeling. ... I think I made the right decision, and I’m really enjoying every moment.”
Wooten’s job is to score goals, and if he can replicate his Sandhausen form, he will help keep the Union atop the standings.
It might also get current national team coach Gregg Berhalter’s attention.
“Unfortunately, he didn’t pick me, but I’ve got to take it like it is," Wooten said. "I’m trying to put good performances on when I get on the field, and score goals, and then we will see what happens. But my main focus is here with the Philadelphia Union, trying to make the playoffs and stay in first place.”