American Exports: The scouting dossier on newly committed USMNT candidate Aron Johannsson
AMSTERDAM – Now that AZ Alkmaar hitman Aron Jóhannsson has declared his intention to cast his international lot with the US national team, we're here to offer the full dossier on the 22-year-old Alabama native.
While we're not sure whether the forward has an innate hunger for low-and-slow pit barbecue and fried catfish, it's no secret that he became quite the goal glutton last season. Jóhannsson was leading the Danish Superliga with 14 goals before a January move to AZ, where (following an injury layoff) he bagged another three in just 147 minutes.
Of course, US fans unfamiliar with his playing style are now wondering about the ways he's able to score, how that game might fit into Jurgen Klinsmann's outfit and when he could be worthy of consideration for a tournament squad. Well, we're here to tell you that time is now and why that's so.
THE SCOUTING REPORT
Most often played as a central forward, Jóhannsson does have the skills to play under a target man or on the wing. He is mobile, capable on the dribble and his smooth passes are easy to strike. A shade under six feet tall, he prefers the ball on the ground when playing as the No. 9, but certainly isn't useless in the air. His hold-up game is decent, but it will get some required sharpening against tall Eredivisie defenders.
While Jóhannsson is not a similar player to the US star he's replacing at AZ, Jozy Altidore (at right), they do share some positive traits. Both like to try every attack lane during a match, popping up all across the field. They each also thrive when allowed to face the area, love to work close combos and have enough speed on the dribble to pull away from many defenders. Most importantly, neither is the type to blast every shot attempt, preferring instead to measure situational needs.
Like Altidore, Jóhannsson is capable with either foot and scores in a variety of ways. He can strike from distance on occasion, but will more often resort to quick, sneaky toe pokes inside the box. He also tends to shoot along the ground when not pressured, reducing the number of depressing stray boots into the stands while increasing the amount of corner kicks and rebounds from efforts that don't reach the net.
Whatever task he's undertaking at a given moment, Jóhannsson exudes a calm cool. Think of Joe Corona's patient Gold Cup goal against El Salvador: That's how the newest member of the US player pool plays all the time. Given that, it's little wonder he's also an ace penalty taker.
THE USMNT OUTLOOK
Don't be fooled by his short résumé. Jóhannsson should be considered a candidate to be the main backup at one or more positions the instant his FIFA allegiance switch from Iceland meets the rubber stamp.
Though only six games into his AZ career, the forward possesses more versatility and potential for consistency than all current forward stable competitors not named Jozy. Perhaps we'll see how he fares at an international level in the other attack positions; if he's capable elsewhere, it would only increase his chances for pitch time – if not starting assignments.
Put it all together and you can safely consider Jóhannsson an instant threat to make the 2014 World Cup squad. He'll need to earn it, of course, but it says here that is exactly what he's about to do over the next 10 months or so.
So welcome to the fold, Aron. Care for a pulled pork sandwich?