This week's roundup of top performances abroad features one regular—Aron Johannsson—and a few others looking to make a push ahead of the 2014 World Cup. Brian Sciaretta provides the details.
IT WAS AN UNUSUAL
March 10, 2014
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weekend for Americans playing abroad because, aside from Aron Johannsson’s spectacular effort on Saturday, the best performances came from players who were not part of the most recent U.S. national team friendly against Ukraine.
Perhaps that isn't such a bad thing. The performance against Ukraine left a lot to be desired, and seeing some fresh faces on this list might encourage the established national teamers to step up their games.
No. 5: Jose Torres
Jose Torres has fallen out of the national team picture completely but on Saturday he played a solid game for Tigres and capped off the scoring in a surprising and convincing 3-0 win over Liga Mx leaders Cruz Azul.
Tigres had already been reduced to 10 players by the 83rd minute, but Torres still found a way to hammer home his chance when he collected a pass in the box and fired a low shot into the corner of the goal.
He still has an uphill climb to get back into Klinsmann’s national team picture but the Americans are starved for left-footed options in the midfield and if Torres can play well in the weeks ahead, a call up to the Mexico game in April could be a possibility.
No. 4: Duane Holmes
In European soccer, loans can go either way. Sometimes players are just brought in for depth and don’t play. Other times they provide a necessary boost for clubs and help them achieve their short-term goals.
A few weeks ago, Duane Holmes went on loan from Huddersfield to Yeovil Town and the move has been ideal for Yeovil, Holmes, and Huddersfield. It truly has been a perfect fit.
When Holmes arrived, Huddersfield was looking to find a place where Holmes could earn starting minutes as opposed to being an attacking option off the bench. When Holmes arrived at Yeovil Town, he walked into the starting lineup and the club has not lost since he arrived, logging two wins and a draw. He has started every game and the club has moved from last place to within two points of safety.
Still only 19, Holmes has a ton of potential and is building a strong case to be an important part of the United States Olympic team in 2016.
No. 3: Joe Corona
Joe Corona’s stock with the U.S. national team may have fallen a bit since last summer’s Gold Cup, but on Friday the San Diego native had one of his best games in a long time as Club Tijuana defeated Chivas at Estadio Caliente.
Corona was smooth on the ball and helped to dictate the pace of the game in a complete 90-performance. He joined Greg Garza, Herculez Gomez, and Alejandro Guido (who was making his Liga Mx debut) in the match—a quartet of Americans playing side by side in Mexico.
In the context of the United States national team, Corona is in solid position to earn himself one last chance before the World Cup in the game against Mexico on April 2nd.
No. 2: Tim Ream
It is turning out to be quite unfortunate timing that Tim Ream withdrew from the most recent U.S. national team camp ahead of the Ukraine friendly. The fact is that he is playing very well for Bolton Wanderers these days.
On Saturday, Ream went a full 90 at left back in a 5-1 road win over Leeds United. The St. Louis University product is proving to be versatile this year, playing all across the backline and in defensive midfield. The sight of Ream at left back, however, is welcome for American fans who can see him helping out at this trouble spot for the United States national team.
Some are saying that with Ream withdrawing from the recent U.S. national team camp, he is out of contention for Brazil. Because he plays left back, however, he is going to keep his name in the mix until the end.
No. 1: Aron Johannsson
Consistently dangerous and reliably dominant, Johannsson is having a very good season for AZ Alkmaar. He is heading to the World Cup with the United States in June and could be setting the stage for a bigger transfer later this summer.
In AZ Alkmaar’s 4-0 win over Heracles, Johannsson made it look easy. He scored the team’s first two goals, drew a red card from Heracles, and nearly assisted on two separate occasions. It wasn't necessarily the goals, but rather he way he scored them, that made his showing so impressive.
On the opening strike, he took a pass from the right wing and chipped it around a defender before firing an unstoppable volley into the top of the goal. On the second goal he received the ball in the box and proceeded to dance around two defenders, wait for the goalkeeper to get pulled out of position, then tapping the goal into the unguarded net.
Johannsson, 23, now has 16 goals in Eredivisie action and 24 in all competitions for AZ Alkmaar. He is closing in on Jozy Altidore’s American record of 31 goals in a single season—set last year at the same club.