Each week as the United States Men’s Soccer Team continues on the road to Brazil, GotSoccer will highlight one player in the national team pool. For the first entry we will look in on a relative newcomer to U.S. Soccer, Aron Johannsson.
Although he was born in Mobile, Alabama, where his parents were attending college, Johannsson’s family returned to Iceland when he was a young child. Johannsson recently changed international soccer allegiances, filing a one time switch to play for the U.S., having suited up previously for Iceland in U21 competition.
The Icelandic Soccer Federation (KSI) were none too pleased at the thought of losing Johannsson and took the unusual step of issuing a statement that, among other things, urged the Icelandic public and media to pressure Johannsson to reverse his decision.
Johannsson did not heed the KSI’s call and went on to debut for the U.S. MNT in a 4-3 friendly win over Bosnia and Herzegovina on August 14. Three weeks later the dynamic young striker took the field as a late game sub in the U.S. team’s 3-1 World Cup Qualifier loss at Costa Rica.
Johannsson was part of the roster, but did not see action four days later, when the U.S. defeated Mexico 2-0 to secure a berth at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. If Johannsson continues to play like he has this season for his new club AZ Alkmaar in the Eredivisie, there is a very good chance that he will play a part for the U.S. next summer in Brazil.
Johannsson moved to the Netherlands last January from his club in Denmark; Aarhus. Interestingly, AZ’s top scorer at the time was American number one Jozy Altidore, and Johannsson slotted in as Altidore’s backup. When Altidore moved on to Sunderland in the EPL, Johannsson stepped in as Alkmaar’s lead striker and the transition has been a smooth one.
Well, for Johannsson anyway. Sunderland are sitting at the bottom of the English Premier League, costing flamboyant manager Paolo Di Canio his job, while Altidore has yet to get into the scoring column for the Black Cats.
Eighth place AZ have fared better than Sunderland, with a respectable record of 4 wins, 3 losses and 1 tie, but apparently that was not good enough, because manager Gertjan Verbeek was fired by AZ this week.
Verbeek got the ax despite leading his team to a 2-1 win Saturday over first place PSV Eindhoven. The win was secured by Johannsson’s team leading fifth league goal of season.
Johannsson’s goal was a gem, a 25 yarder that caught the PSV keeper just off of his line. And the game winner came on the heels of Johannsson’s midweek hat trick in a 4-1 victory over Sparta, in the KNVB Cup. Those four goals make it 10 for Johannsson in all club competitions, the type of record that will make the 22 year old hard to ignore come June.
But the U.S. are deeper than ever at forward, and June and Brazil are still a long way off. Johannsson will have to contend with Altidore, Clint Dempsey, Eddie Johnson, and a healthy Herculez Gomez. Terrence Boyd is scoring goals in bunches for Rapid Vienna and Klinsmann often likes to use Landon Donovan at the striker position.
As of now though, Johannsson looks like a solid pick to be on that United States charter flight to Brazil. U.S. MNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann had this to say after Johannsson’s U.S. debut, a 30 minute run out versus Bosnia-Herzegovina. “He (Johannsson) is a player that can surprise a lot of opponents. He’s unpredictable, he’s confident. He’s seeing the game really well ahead, so he slips where the ball will go.”
“I think he really showed in that half an hour,” Klinsmann said “that he has a lot of special tools in his game.”
Johannsson has continued to use those tools to carve up Eredivisie defenses. If he keeps it up, Johannsson has a good chance to carve out a place for himself in Klinsmann’s final 23 man roster for Brazil.