Aron Johannsson has chosen to play for the United States, the country in which he was born, instead of Iceland, the country in which he was raised and for whom most people expected him to play for. The 22-year-old striker is expected to replace Jozy Altidore at AZ next season and now looks ready to join him on the U.S.
Johannsson announced his decision on his Facebook:
I have decided to make myself eligible for the USA national football team. I was fortunate in that I could choose between playing for Iceland or the USA since I have dual citizenship. It was neither an easy nor hasty decision, because I was faced with two good national teams. I thank the coaches of Iceland for their interest in me and wish the Iceland national team all the best in the future.
Johannsson has already played for Iceland, suiting up for their U-21's so he will have to use a one-time switch to play for the U.S. In fact, he is lucky to still be eligible for the U.S., having been set to accept a call-up to the Iceland team in October 2012 where he would have been cap-tied in World Cup qualifiers. But the forward suffered a groin injury and had to pull out, keeping him free to play for the U.S. if he wanted to, which he does now.
Even as recently as the spring, Altidore said that he expected Johannsson to choose Iceland. While Johannsson was born in Mobile, AL, he moved to Iceland with his parents when he was three years old and was raised there, making his attachment to the country natural, but apparently that attachment couldn't trump suiting for one of CONCACAF's best teams and having the chance to play in a World Cup.
With Altidore on his way to Sunderland, AZ has a hole at striker that they expect Johansson to fill. A year ago, Johansson scored 14 goals in 18 matches for AGF before moving to AZ, where he scored three times in five matches. That was enough to convince the club of the 22-year-old's readiness to take over as the team's starting striker.
"He's good, very good, that's why we have him. He's a typical center forward with good agility," AZ director of football and former U.S. international Earnie Stewart said of Johannsson. "He's very cool - I guess all Icelandic players are - and at the same time he has a nose in front of goal.
"He's a player to be reckoned with and if Jozy would leave, we already have a striker that can fill his shoes in the future."
Whether Johabnsson becomes a serious candidate for the U.S. World Cup team remains to be seen. He has yet to prove himself outside of the Danish Superliga, although he will get the chance this season, when he can play himself into a spot in Brazil. After all, Herculez Gomez, Eddie Johnson, Chris Wondolowski and Terrence Boyd have all had chances to take hold of the backup striker spot, but none has has made it theirs.
In the meantime, Johannsson could see a call-up to the Americans' August friendly in Bosnia or -- if the U.S. has already qualified for the World Cup -- to October's World Cup qualifiers.
This could be the second dual-national coup for Jurgen Klinsmann and the U.S. in the last week. John Anthony Brooks reportedly accepted a call-up to the U.S. for an August friendly, and while that will not cap-tie, it is a sign that the young defender is ready to rebuff Germany's advances and suit up for the Stars and Stripes.