USMNT: For Aron Johannsson, first start shows promise - but plenty of work still to be done
KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Aron Johannsson's first start with the U.S. national team showed both his potential – and his need for more playing time to mesh with the side.
There were flashes of skill and creativity from the young AZ Alkmaar striker during his shift, but also several missed chances before he was lifted for Sacha Kljestan in the 72nd minute of a 2-0 World Cup qualifying win over Jamaica.
“I was excited to get my first start, really excited,” said Johannsson, who got his opportunity to start alongside Jozy Altidore when Eddie Johnson injured his groin in training on Wednesday. “I think I did OK. I was trying to come down and get the ball, but things didn't really work out today. Maybe I should have scored one or two goals, but …”
For Johannsson, who was born in Alabama but grew up in Iceland and only chose the US this summer, the biggest payoff from Friday's match was the chance to gain familiarity with his new teammates.
“I mean, it's my first start,” he said. “I have to get to know the guys a little better, and by every minute I play I get to know the team. I'm just looking forward to continuing, and hopefully get some minutes.”
While Johannsson didn't crack the score sheet, Klinsmann was glad to see him trying to assert himself against the Reggae Boyz.
“He created himself some chances,” Klinsmann said. “That's what you want to see from a striker. He missed those chances, but they were there. That's good to see. The second half, he ran out of gas a little bit.”
The key, Klinsmann said, is for Johannson – and other emerging players trying to win a spot on the World Cup roster – to keep showing progress.
“What we want to see is over a time period that they mature, that they grow, that they get more confident,” Klinsmann said. “With Aron, he just has to get out there now and get connected on this team going forward.”
Goalkeeper Tim Howard, meanwhile, liked what he saw of the forward pairing when Johannsson was in.
“I think Aron is really sharp up front,” Howard said. “He pairs really well with Jozy. Jozy likes to sometimes run the channel, hold the ball up. You need that guy underneath to kind of be buzzing around and feed off of Jozy’s layoffs. He did really well in that role.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.