American Exports: As eyes focus on Aron Johannsson, US striker defends his switch from Iceland to USMNT

Aron Johannsson celebrates a goal for AZ Alkmaar

Photo Credit: 
Courtesy of AZ Alkmaar

ALKMAAR, The Netherlands – All sorts of questions have been swirling from Iceland to America since AZ Alkmaar's Aron Jóhannsson announced he would switch FIFA allegiance from the former to the latter just two short weeks ago.

On both shores, one of the top queries has been simply: Why?

In a curious press release following the decision, Iceland's FA chief Geir Thorsteinsson charged the 22-year-old forward of chasing extra dollars, as if it was given that becoming a US national team player would magically raise his career earning power. A few of the country's newspapers also expressed bitterness at losing a player who'd competed for them in qualifying for this summer's Under-21 European Championship.

Even fans stateside have questioned the motives of Jóhannsson on comment threads and message boards across the Internet, before he hinted in an interview with Dutch TV station RTV that the chance to play in a World Cup helped form his decision to make the change.

For Jóhannsson, the question everyone wants to ask simply isn’t worth answering anymore.

"I don't really want to talk about why I made the decision," he told MLSsoccer.com after scoring the penalty kick equalizer in Sunday's 3-2 home win over nearby rivals Ajax. "I think it's best for me.

"In the end, it was my decision and not other people's. Some people support my decision, but some people don't. That's how people are. I'm just focused on doing my best for the US now."

Whether he will get that chance in the USMNT’s international friendly in Bosnia on Wednesday (2:30 pm ET, ESPN2, UniMas, live chat on MLSsoccer.com) also ranks high on the list of questions suddenly buzzing around Jóhannsson. All of his paperwork has been filed for the switch, but there is no telling when FIFA will pass its ruling.

"I actually have no idea," he shrugged when asked if he'll be cleared to play in time. "I'll go to Bosnia [on Monday] and find out then."

Either way, Jóhannsson can't wait to reach camp.

"It's special," he said. "I'm very excited to meet the coaches and players. When it came up that I had a chance to play for the US, I started following them. This summer, I watched all the games and saw them win against Germany [a 4-3 friendly victory in early June]."

The subject of Jóhannsson's connection to the United States has also come up on both sides of the Atlantic, but his eligibility is beyond question. Unlike some of his USMNT contemporaries expected to play Wednesday – think Mix Diskerud, Fabian Johnson or promising young defender John Anthony Brooks – Jóhannsson was actually born in the United States.

"I was born and raised there [in Mobile, Ala.] until I was three, and then my family moved back to Iceland," he said. "I went back when I was 17 for high school [at the IMG Academy] in Bradenton, Fla. It was one of the best years of my life and I can't wait to go back occasionally, hopefully to get some minutes with the national team."

Jóhannsson is one of five forwards called into the US camp this week, joining for AZ teammate Jozy Altidore, Terrence Boyd, Bobby Wood and Seattle Sounders forward Eddie Johnson.

"It's going to be a really tough competition for me, especially when Jozy is there. But I just need to show Klinsmann that I'm ready,” Jóhannsson said. "I'd love to play with Jozy up top. I think we could be a deadly duo, so hopefully that will happen someday."