In 2014, the world will finally get to witness some of the best soccer talent in the world. Teams with storied pasts, newer teams breaking onto the stage, and that Cinderella team.
The World Cup showcases our favorite players, some who are now veterans of the international tournament and others who are facing their second or third. Then there are the players who have yet to taste the sweet nectar that is glory when they suit up for their nation. Those players take this stage to make their names known. Soon they will become our favorite players and the veterans we once loved become a part of a nation’s lore. We remember yesterday’s victors, but we will witness the promise of the young heroes.
The World Cup didn’t start handing out the Best Young Player Award trophy until 2006, when the honor went to then 21-year old Lukas Podolski, the German player with a wily left-side attack that led to 3 goals in the 2006 World Cup. Thomas Müller, another German striker, succeeded his teammates’ performance to win the Best Young Player in South Africa, by scoring 5 goals which also made him the leading scorer of the 2010 World Cup, claiming the Golden Boot along with his exceptional debut.
Before then, the World Cup had used a survey to find out who the best young player was. In the 1958 World Cup hosted by Sweden, a young Brazilian famously known as Pelé took it home. Fast forward to 2002 in South Korea, the last time the survey was conducted before it became an actual award, American soccer star Landon Donovan exploded onto the World Cup scene by being the catalyst for the United State Men’s National Team. He helped guide them to the quarterfinals, where they fell to Germany 1-0.
I’m not going to focus on the international field for this World Cup, but I do believe that player could make a run at taking home the Best Young Player Award amongst the other talented players. Instead I’m looking at one specific spark from the United States who has that promise: Aron Johannsson.
A dual national, Johannsson was born in Mobile, Alabama while his parents were taking courses at Southern Alabama University. When he was three, Johannsson and his family moved back to their native Iceland. Johannsson had also came back during the 2007-2008 school year and worked with the U.S. Soccer Development Academy in Bradenton, Florida, a state in which he has noted is a frequent vacation spot.
It was not an overnight decision for Johannsson, instead he was being heavily recruited by then AZ Alkmaar teammate, Jozy Altidore, and the man himself, Jurgen Klinsmann. It was reported that Klinsmann was rallying hard for Johannsson to join the United States over Iceland.
Just before the Bosnia friendly on August 14th, FIFA cleared Johannsson on his one-time nationality switch, giving him the ability to play in the match. Johannsson came in as a sub and performed admirably for his first appearance. Here’s what Klinsmann said about the young striker per Grant Wahl from Sports Illustrated in an article after the match, “He’s a different type of striker, different type of player…He takes people on, he’s very light on his feet, and he has speed. But he always knows where the goal is, even if he’s roaming around with his back to the goal.”
Sounds like a good weapon to have. Of course that’s what a striker is, the player that has the natural ability to finish, but to find one with the confidence that Johannsson has at such a young age, may prove to be very helpful to the United States’ attack. Although it’s pretty muddy at the top with Jozy Altidore growing into a more mature and dangerous threat, and Eddie Johnson looking very good as of late, I think that Johannsson will give the offense a whole different dimension. This young player has some technical skills that could partner with either Altidore and Johnson, two big bodied forwards who can separate from the defense physically. With utilizing Johannsson, you have a finesse player who uses a quick touch to weave in and out of challengers and could really upset the formation of the defense, drawing them in, which could easily turn into a quick pass to an oncoming Altidore/Johnson slipping it past the goalkeeper.
It’s a lovely picture don’t you think?
Currently Johannsson plays in the Eredivisie, a Netherlands league, with AZ Alkmaar. Since his arrival in January of this year, he has really
made a name for himself. So much so that Soccer By Ives reported that the Scottish Premier League powerhouse, Celtic FC, have shown a lot of interest in him.
This attention is well-reasoned too. Just recently in a KNVB cup matchup against Sparta Rotterdam, Johannsson had a grand impact in the 4-1 victory as he netted a hat trick. Just days after, Johannsson added to his success by ripping a gorgeous half-volley, against PSG Eindhoven (the current Eredivisie leaders), from five feet outside the box that delicately floated over the goalie then dropped into the net.
Aron Johannsson, is young, yes. Does he have a lot of talent? Certainly. Looks like a blonde Kevin Bacon? There’s a similarity. Can he become an integral part of the United States Men’s National Team during Brazil? No doubt. Does he have the ability to take home the Best Young Player Award for the World Cup? As long as he continues his impressive goal scoring ability, as well as his promise to grow into a more complete player in a Jurgen Klinsmann squad, the United States National Team may see him blossom into a very dynamic player that will add a lot more talent to this already lethal soccer squad.