By now you may have heard the name Bjørn Maars Johnsen. Whether it’s in passing, on a message board, on a Yanks Abroad round-up. The Norwegian-American striker isn’t a complete mystery at this point, even if we don’t know much about the Hearts big man. Maybe it’s time we start talking more about him.
Standing 6’5” tall, Johnsen joined the Scottish Premiership club this summer after bouncing from club to club in the first five years of his professional career.
While he was born in New York City and grew up in North Carolina, Norway is where he got his start in club soccer in the youth ranks of Tippeligaen club Vålerenga. While his club career hasn’t been prestigious it certainly has been exotic with stops in the Baltic Islands, Portugal, and Bulgaria. While playing with Atlético Clube de Portugal, there were whispers that Benfica were set to bring in Johnsen on a transfer, but that never materialized.
So far this season for Heart of Midlothian, he’s scored five goals in 14 appearances. However, with three goals and two assists in his last four games, he’s become a pivotal player for the Jam Tarts. The great run of form has helped lift his side to third in the league table.
Johnsen is eligible to play for both the Norway and United States at the international level. Despite his good form, neither have ever called him up. His Norwegian father sent out this humorous tweet showing his frustration with the Norway national team and their lack of contact with the striker:
I almost want USMNT to call him up so that we can confirm that The Norwegian NTteam coaches are totally clueless https://t.co/4lnPUT29Cq— Hasse Johnsen (@HasseTheGuru) December 1, 2016
With Norway apparently uninterested, could Bruce Arena and U.S. Soccer swoop in and give him a look? It’s always hard to ignore strikers who are scoring goals in Europe, especially if they are doing it on a consistent basis. While Johnsen’s scoring record this season isn’t extraordinary, he’s one of the few American goal scorers in Europe who is playing consistently and scoring.
The unfortunate reality is, there just isn’t a lot of opportunity for him to get a USMNT chance. If European players had some sort of January Camp alternative for fringe players to show their stuff, then there’s no doubt he’d be a candidate to get a shot.
For now, he has to prove it on merit alone that he’s worthy of a spot in an important match and there’s just not any reason to think that’s on the horizon at this point. But that doesn’t mean that scenario couldn’t come to fruition some time in the future if he keeps scoring and improving.
One of the factors holding him back is the league he plays in. While the Scottish Premiership isn’t anything to scoff at, it’s not the highest level of competition. Without starting yet another league war, in this wannabe writer’s opinion, the SPL isn’t even on the level of MLS.
If Johnsen can use Hearts and the SPL as a stepping stone to a bigger and better club, then he’ll truly enter the conversation for the USMNT and Bruce Arena will have no choice but to pay attention.
For now, he must keep up his current production and help Hearts finish as high as they can and hope another club comes calling. He’s simply one to watch for now, but who’s to say we’re not talking about him and Jozy Altidore forming the most physically imposing strike partnership ever in a year or two?