Every week at The Center Circle, we are highlighting a different player in a feature we call “On the Spot”. We’ll take a look at superstars, underrated gems, aging veterans, and young unknowns who should be known. We’ll peruse their club and international careers, taking note of their teams, statistics, and highlight reels. We’ll illuminate their strengths and weaknesses and comment on their personalities and reputations. It will be some fun. If there is anyone you want to see “On the Spot”, feel free to comment below.
Despite their disappointing exit from this year’s Gold Cup, some players on the U.S. national team still managed to make a mark on the tournament. Aron Jóhannsson, once the forgotten forward in the lineup, showed fans what he is truly capable when given the opportunity.
Sweet Home Alabama
Aron Jóhannsson may have been lining up for the Icelandic national team had his parents not moved to Mobile, Alabama before his birth. The forward’s stay in the South didn’t last long, however, as his family moved back to Iceland when he was just three years old.
The move back to his Icelandic roots led to the future national team player to ply his trade with local club Fjölnir. Jóhannsson would spend the next eight years within the Reykjavík club all the way up until his professional debut in 2008. The striker would make just three appearances in his first professional season, but he would quickly make himself a constant fixture in the team’s starting 11. In his next two years in the Urvalsdeild with Fjölnr, Jóhannsson would make over 30 appearances and score 13 goals, with 12 of those coming in his final season with the club.
Moving to the Continent
After his three successful seasons in Iceland, Jóhannsson made the move to Denmark. Late in the 2010 summer transfer window, second division club AGF Aarhus signed the striker. In his first year with AGF the 20-year-old made 17 appearances after earning a starting position late in the season and scoring two goals along the way. The debut season in Denmark also ended with Jóhannsson’s new club earning promotion to the Danish Superliga.
The move to the first division saw the American almost double his appearance total from the previous season playing in 30 games. His second season in Denmark also ended with Jóhannsson’s second best single season goal tally as he found the back of the net seven times. It wasn’t until his third season, however, that the AGF striker truly introduced himself to the world. Despite making just 18 league appearances, Jóhannsson scored a career best 14 goals, and also registered the fastest hat trick in league history after scoring three times in just 3:50.
The breakout season with AGF was good enough to earn the budding striker a move to Dutch power AZ Alkmaar where he joined compatriot Jozy Altidore. The move to the Netherlands came in January, leaving Jóhannson just half a season to adjust to his new surroundings. The 22-year-old didn’t make his debut with AZ until April, but after his introduction to the lineup, Jóhannsson would score in three straight matches.
In his sophomore season, the American would again push himself into his new team’s starting lineup. The 2013-14 season also gave Jóhannsson his first taste of European football as AZ competed in the Europa League. Between Europe and the Eredivisie, the 23-year-old would make 47 appearances, scoring 19 times. In his third year with the club, Jóhannsson again found himself in the starting 11 as he made 21 appearances for AZ and scoring another nine goals in the Dutch top division.
After working his way through the Icelandic youth system, Aron Jóhannsson actually earned a senior call up for the team’s 2014 World Cup qualifiers in 2012. Due to injury, the forward was unable to make his international debut, and this would end up being a blessing in disguise for Jurgen Klinsmann and the U.S. team. The lack of a competitive appearance with Iceland meant that Jóhannsson was still eligible to switch his soccer allegiances and his Alabama roots meant that the U.S. could persuade the striker to play for the Stars and Stripes.
A year after almost appearing for Iceland, Jóhannsson posted a message on Facebook making himself available for American selection. Later in the year, the former Icelandic player made his first appearance for the U.S. against Bosnia and Herzogovenia. His first goal for his new nation was a dramatic game-winner against Panama in October 2013 during World Cup Qualifying. Since his debut in 2013, Jóhannsson has made 15 appearances for the U.S. while scoring four goals.
Aron Jóhannsson has shown at AZ that he can be a complete forward. His quick feet make him a constant danger in and around the penalty area, while his shooting ability gives him the chance to score from close range or with precision outside the area. Like any good number nine, the 24-year-old can also put the ball into the back of the net using his head. Perhaps his most impressive goal came just last week against Cuba. His awareness on the field allowed him to recognize the Cuban keeper’s positioning and place a pin perfect chip into the back of the net.