Aron Johannsson, Robbed by the Ref, Remains Upbeat
July 11, 2015
FOXBOROUGH, Mass.—Thirty-five minutes into last night's Gold Cup match against Haiti, U.S. striker Aron Johannsson received a pass in the penalty area, turned, and buried his shot into the corner of the net.
Before he could celebrate, however, the Icelandic-American saw the linesman’s flag go up.
Replays would show that his strike should have counted but Johannsson continued to play strong soccer from that point on. The U.S. eventually found a goal through Clint Dempsey but Johannsson showed signs of being the striker who was dominant the last two months of the Eredivisie season.
“I wish I could count that one,” Johannsson, 24, said after the game. ‘It’s good to score a goal but when it doesn’t count, it doesn’t count. I don’t think I was unlucky. I did everything I could to score the goal. Sometimes this happens and we play and make a lot of mistakes. Unfortunately, today the referee made one.
"I’m still eager to go out there and score goals.”
The Alabama-born striker played 83 minutes Friday night—his first action of the summer after not playing in the Gold Cup opener against Honduras or the tune-up friendly against Guatemala. While Johannsson’s place in the team's pecking order is unclear at the moment, his lack of minutes so far this month can be attributed to the timing of a tournament that occurs just as European-based players are normally beginning preseason.
“I am coming from vacation," Johannsson said. "My fitness is slowly building up. It’s only getting better with every minute. I was happy to get some minutes and I want to build on this and get better throughout the tournament.”
Klinsmann agreed that while the timing is less than ideal for Johannsson and others in his situation, there will be opportunities the rest of the way in this Gold Cup. The coach then singled out Johannsson as a player who he can call on as the tournament progresses.
“He, with a lot of European-based players, need to find a way into this tournament, into the team, after coming from vacation,” Klinsmann said. “This is what he is about. He has a tremendous instinct in the box. So he got the opportunity today and he will get more opportunities in this tournament. It’s good to know that if Jozy is not there yet, we have Aron and we have Wondo who can get the job done as well.
“He’s pushing it,” Klinsmann added. “He’s developing like many of the younger guys. He had a tough season at Alkmaar with a lot of injuries after the World Cup. Then he got into a rhythm and starting scoring the past couple of months.”
Klinsmann and Johannsson both know that if the U.S. is going to win the Gold Cup it will have to perform better than it did against Haiti. With some decent finishing, the 79th-ranked Haitians could have defeated the Americans. The U.S. clinched first place in Group A but the work is only just beginning.
The team will now head to Kansas City to face Panama in a match that is meaningless in terms of the standings but could provide an opportunity to tweak personnel, positioning, and performances.
“We have to watch the games again on TV with the coaches and find out what’s wrong,” Johannsson said. “We all know we have to play better. But in the end with have six points in two games. We’re only improving and game by game we’re getting better.
"Hopefully at the end of the tournament we have a nice little trophy.”
Johannsson is confident that the U.S.' crop of forwards will improve in the games ahead. He said his pairing with Clint Demspey is a “natural partnership” and that he sees potential. He also says Jozy Altidore, his friend and former teammate at AZ Alkmaar, will bounce back from some rough outings following his recent hamstring injury and that it is “just a question of when.”
For now, he is just enjoying his first Gold Cup. It is a far different brand of soccer than what he is used to in the Eredivisie.
“It’s difficult,” he said with a smile. “We go out there and play against strong physical teams with only three days between games. I am enjoying it.”
Brian Sciaretta is an American Soccer Now columnist and an ASN 100 panelist. Follow him on Twitter.