With Altidore's Form, Aron Johannsson Primed for USMNT Breakout
by Duncan Day
Apr 24, 2014 5:56 PM EDT
The 2014 FIFA World Cup is fast approaching, and the U.S. men's national team will soon release their 30-man roster. The forward position is partially led by Jozy Altidore, the Sunderland striker who has fallen on rocky form after moving from AZ Alkmaar last summer. At AZ, the American international was spectacular, finishing the 2012-13 season with 23 goals in 33 league appearances. However, Altidore couldn't muster first-rate performances in the Premier League, netting only two goals in 27 appearances as the Black Cats currently sit dead last in the standings. Sunderland boss Gus Poyet isn't allowing the sort of playing time that could really prepare him for glory on the world stage. The 24-year-old's play overseas may not dictate his productivity for the USMNT at the World Cup, though. U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has seen Altidore excel while representing his country, especially in 2013-14, tallying eight scores in 11 overall starts. “Making the jump from Holland to the Premier League is a huge jump, and it is a risk when you move from one club where you feel like, ‘I’m in my nest,’ to a big Premier League team that you leave your comfort zone," Klinsmann said back in March. "Now, he has to fight his way back into their way of doing it. He has to convince that coach and that team – which is a new coach since he came in actually – and go through that period and it’s just part of professional life." The U.S. coach believes in Altidore's talents. "We are sure that he’s going to go through that difficult moment and he’s going to win that battle, and we’re going to have a very, very strong Jozy Altidore going to Brazil.” Based on strength, speed and skill, Klinsmann should see the former New York Red Bull as one of the best scorers available to him next to Clint Dempsey, who's been wonderful in MLS so far. Paired with Obafemi Martins, Dempsey tops the league in goals, brandishing highlight-reel strikes and quality playmaking ability. After all, he did spend a fair amount of time in England following his departure from the New England Revolution. While Dempsey has been satisfying, it’s hard to feel very comfortable with Jozy right now because Aron Johannsson has executed an amazing season as AZ's new American. Born in Mobile, Alabama, Johannsson originally played for Iceland U-21, but in July 2013, declared eligibility to represent the United States. He has possibly established himself as the best American competitor this year. And, in the end, if the United States wants to advance past the "Group of Death," an X-factor may be necessary. Juan Agudelo is too young despite recent success. Eddie Johnson’s stint at D.C. United has been unremarkable. Johannsson definitely has the chance to make a considerable impact.