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Johannsson has reason to celebrate
by Mike Woitalla, May 28th, 2014 3:59AM

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TAGS:  men's national team, world cup 2014

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By Mike Woitalla

Aron Johannsson didn't celebrate the first time he scored for the USA out of respect for the distraught Panamanian opponents who had seen their World Cup dreams evaporate in stoppage time of the Americans' 3-2 victory. He even consoled one of the Panamanians after his searing 20-yard strike.

On Tuesday night in San Francisco, after his powerful header hit the Azerbaijan net to clinch the 2-0 U.S. win, the 23-year-old displayed his joy -- both arms in the air, a fist-pump, high fives and hugs. And of course a big smile on the face that resembles a young Kevin Bacon.

His first goal came in October 2013, three months after he switched his allegiance from Iceland, which he represented 10 times at the U-21 level, to the USA. The Iceland soccer federation, after Johannsson announced his intentions on Facebook, released a statement futilely urging the “the public and media to challenge Aron to continue competing for Iceland.”

Last week Johansson said, "Iceland's a small country, under 330,000 or something. In the beginning they weren't too happy about my decision but now I think everybody's excited to hopefully see the first guy from Iceland be in the World Cup.”

The odds, indeed, are strong that he will be on the field in Brazil. As the win over Azerbaijan displayed, Johansson is challenging the struggling Jozy Altidore for a spot on the frontline alongside captain Clint Dempsey, who missed Tuesday’s game because of sore groin.

While Altidore is coming off a dismal season at Sunderland in which he scored only once in 30 league games, Johannsson struck 26 times for the Netherlands’ AZ in all competitions.

Against Azerbaijan, Johannsson replaced Chris Wondolowski in the 62nd minute. In the third minute, Wondolowski squandered the USA’s best chance of the first half. He met a Graham Zusi free kick inside the goal area with a diving header but smacked the ball straight at goalkeeper Kamram Aghayev.

Klinsmann kept Altidore in the entire 90 minutes, no doubt hoping he’d get a goal to pull him out of the slump. But Altidore mis-trapped balls, mis-hit passes and was outjumped in aerial battles. When he got off a shot it flew high into the stands. He looked a bit better in the second half but didn't come close to scoring. After he did roast a defender on the wing, he sent the ball to an opponent.

Johannsson is eligible to play for the USA because he was born in Alabama. He moved to Iceland, the home of his parents, at age 3. In his teens, he returned to the USA to attend the IMG Academy for a year.

He grew up idolizing Dutch striker Ruud van Nistelrooy, who'll be working for ESPN during the World Cup.

“Scoring goals has been my thing since I was born,” said. “I always wanted to score goals since I was young.”

The USA plays two more games before traveling to Brazil as Klinsmann figures out his frontline. So far, the bad news is that Altidore remains in a rut. The good news is that Johannsson is on a roll.


10 comments
  1. I w Nowozeniuk
    commented on: May 28, 2014 at 9:06 a.m.
    How did "Wondolowski squander(ed) the USA’s best chance of the first half." His diving header was timely and he met the ball perfectly and sent it with power on frame where the keeper happened to be positioned to make a reflex save. Sorry, but that statement has no merit. As for Altidore, sure he's having problems, but his teammates are not helping him with some of the passes he had to fight for. Sorry again, too much criticism on non-essential issues when the team as a whole did not step up to the plate.

  1. j bapper
    commented on: May 28, 2014 at 9:42 a.m.
    I'm sorry but I've seen enough of Altidore's poor touches and lack of confidence around the box. He doesn't bring anything to the team and defenders must love playing against him as he's so predictable...It's time to give Johannsson a chance to take the starting position.

  1. Mark Hardt
    commented on: May 28, 2014 at 10:03 a.m.
    Klinsman went on a big limb by declaring past performance made no difference and it is what you are doing right now. So he cut Donovan on that excuse and Donovan promptly scored two and set the MLS record. Now Altidore has not been in form since the friendly against Bosnia and Klinsman looks like a big hypocrite (which he is). Donovan was cut because Klinsman hates him. It is personal. Altidore has been so bad he should not even be in the 23. Boyd should have had that slot. He is a similar stand up forward and was on fire in the Europa League.

  1. Walt Pericciuoli
    commented on: May 28, 2014 at 10:04 a.m.
    The key is, Wondo was in position to take those chances. Where was Altidore? Wondo gets more chances, as does Johannsson, because they read the game and put themselves in the right spots.I'm looking forward to a Dempsey Johannsson pairing, with Wondo as the spark off the bench. (Imagine if we had Donovan as well)

  1. Walt Pericciuoli
    commented on: May 28, 2014 at 10:06 a.m.
    Mark, you are right. Altidore, based on performance, does not deserve a spot on the top 23.If you ask me, neither does Gonzalez.

  1. Andrea Hana
    commented on: May 28, 2014 at 1:35 p.m.
    Kevin Bacon? Really? HUH.

  1. cisco martinez
    commented on: May 28, 2014 at 6:19 p.m.
    Walt and Mark completely agree, consistency and fairness is what we want out of Klinsmann. When Donovan or even Goodson whom started or played the last 3 important games were omitted, while keeping Brooks, Altidore, Green, or even Gonzalez unproven or not performing; Its diheartening as a player, coach, and can lead to trust issues with players and coaches.

  1. Edgar Aldana
    commented on: May 29, 2014 at 12:36 a.m.
    If you're judging who should be on the team based on game consistency, Donovan has no place on the team. He may have played well in the past but as of recent he has not done anything that merits him being on the team. Scoring a few goals in the last MLS game means nothing, you shouldn't feel a since of entitlements on a team just because of your past success. There are players that do need to improve like Altidore but I agree that him being on the team is questionable based on his performance also. Hopefully these guys will get it together soon.

  1. Rick Estupinan
    commented on: May 29, 2014 at 4:25 a.m.
    PlEASE MR KLINSMANN , GET RID OF THIS AWFUL PLAYER ALTIDORE , HE IS JUST NO GOOD HE WILL BE EMBARRASSMENT FOR THE US . WHY ARE YOU SO HARD HEATED ? . HE WAS NOT WANTED BY HIS OWN COUNTRY HAITI ,WHERE HE WAS BORN . ARON JOHANNSSON OR ANY BODY ELSE WILL BETTER THAN THIS INEPT MAN . I READ AN ARTICLE IN WITCH YOU TALKED VERY BADLY OF K.DEMPSEY , AND JET YOU DO NOT SAY A WORD ABOUT THIS BAD PLAYER . AGAINST AZERBAIJAN , YOU LET HIM PLAY FOR THE ENTIRE 90 MINUTES , WHAT'S GOING ON , ARE YOU BLIND ?.

  1. Rick Estupinan
    commented on: May 29, 2014 at 4:38 a.m.
    I am sorry to say this , but the way I see things , coach Klinsmann is going bring team USA to a disgraceful showing in Brazil . He is doing terrible mistakes , and we are witnessing every wrong move he is making . I am loosing respect for this coach . The present situation makes me wish that Bruce Arena or coach Bradly would be in charge . At least he would use more common sense .


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