Aron Jóhannsson’s latest goal a reminder: U.S. forward picture starting to look pretty clear

15 Comments

Twenty-two goals in all competitions is not a bad way to say ‘Hello’ to the Eredivisie, and for U.S. international Aron Jóhannsson, that’s only seven months worth of work. After his latest salvo in AZ Alkmaar’s 1-1 draw on Saturday with Utrecht, the 23-year-old is up to 22 all-competition goals this season. To put that in perspective, Jozy Altidore scored 31 times in his much ballyhooed 2012-13, also with the North Holland club.

Another American hopeful was also on the field today at the AFAS Stadion, but Juan Agudelo couldn’t match his countryman’s impact. In his fifth league appearance with his new club, the Stoke CIty loanee went 73 minutes without a shot on goal. Jóhannsson only managed one greater, but heading home Roy Beerens’ 21st minute cross from the edge of the six-yard box, the Alabama-born striker recorded his 14th league goal of the season.

There was a time not so long when Jóhannsson’s chances of going to Brazil seemed more wish than reality, but with his performances in Holland only reinforcing what we saw at the end of 2013, a player that wasn’t even in the pool this time last year has become a near-lock. Along with Altidore and D.C. United’s Eddie Johnson, Jurgen Klinsmann seems to have three sure bets at forward for this summer’s World Cup squad.

When you consider the positional flexibility of Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan, the entire U.S. forward corps may be set. When talking about alternatives, Steve Davis debated the virtues of Agudelo, Terrence Boyd, Herculez Gomez, and Chris Wondolowski, but the debate may end up more complicated. Those four many not only be competing against each other, but they may also be competing against the extra midfielder or defender Klinsmann could add at their expense. With Dempsey and Donovan, the U.S. doesn’t need four true forwards, particularly since Dempsey is currently seen as a starter beneath Altidore up top.

Between three goalkeepers and the three apparent forward locks, the U.S. has 17 other spots to divide between the back line, midfield, and potentially another forward. Depending on injuries, potential match ups, or just fit, Klinsmann may decide a ninth player in the middle or at the back is more valuable than a fourth true forward. Given the players that already locks, he has that option.

As for Jóhannsson, here’s a YouTube-quality version of today’s goal. With efforts like this, he may be the third of three true forwards going to Brazil.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fc2za-gDFxA]

Bayern signs Germany midfielder Goretzka from rival Schalke

Getty Images
Leave a comment

MUNICH (AP) Bayern Munich signed Germany midfielder Leon Goretzka on Friday on a free transfer from Bundesliga rival Schalke effective from next season.

Bayern said the 22-year-old Goretzka signed a four-year deal from July 1 through June 2022.

Schalke, which Goretzka joined in 2013 from hometown club Bochum, said the player informed the club this week of his wish to join Bayern when his contract expired.

[ MORE: Bundesliga scores ]

“We think we did everything in the last months to convince Leon to stay with us,” Schalke sporting director Christian Heidel said. “In the end, it wasn’t enough.”

Schalke had long been engaged in trying to get Goretzka to extend his contract, but was aware of reported interest from Bayern, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus and Liverpool.

“We’re very happy that Leon Goretzka, a German international with big potential, has decided in favor of Bayern despite big-name international competitors. This way it’s ensured that Leon Goretzka remains in the Bundesliga,” Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said.

Goretzka scored 19 goals and set up 13 more in 130 appearances for Schalke.

The club had previously expressed its displeasure with Bayern making public statements about its player after Goretzka was praised by sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic and coach Jupp Heynckes.

Heidel said “we don’t need to hear every day from the Munich people how good our player is.”

Goretzka has six goals in 12 games for Germany.

Pele hospitalized overnight in Brazil

Getty Images
1 Comment

The most famous soccer player in the world had a scare last night as he was hospitalized in Brazil for “severe exhaustion.”

Pele, 77, was set to travel to London this weekend to be honored by the Football Writers Association, though it looks like that trip has now been postponed.

In the early hours of Thursday morning, Pele collapsed and was taken to a hospital in Brazil where he has undergone a series of tests which appear to point to severe exhaustion,” a FWA statement said. “He remains on fluids while doctors monitor his recovery.

“Thankfully, there is no suggestion of anything more serious than exhaustion.”

Here’s to hoping Pele makes a full recovery.

[MORE: USMNT centerback heads to Championship club]

USMNT centerback Carter-Vickers heads to Ipswich Town on loan

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Cameron Carter-Vickers has a new club to call home for the next five months or so after a rough first half of the season.

Tottenham announced Friday morning that it had loaned the U.S. Men’s National Team centerback to Championship club Ipswich Town for the rest of the season. Carter-Vickers spent the first five months of the season at fellow Championship side Sheffield United, starting 17 times though he struggled recently as Sheffield won just one game he played in during the month of December, losing three and drawing one.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Carter-Vickers was then recalled earlier this week and now has a new home with a mid-table Championship club, with a new chance to impress. Hopefully Carter-Vickers can recover his form and continue to grow, potentially latching on to another Premier League side next year or breaking into the Tottenham first team.

There’s another interesting American tie-in to this. Carter-Vickers appears to be a short-term replacement for Ipswich Town’s Tommy Smith, who the club states is headed to join the Colorado Rapids ahead of the 2018 MLS season.

Sanchez, Mkhitaryan transfer still up in the air

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The player-swap/trade/transfer between Arsenal and Manchester United still appears to be heading towards completion, but it was further delayed Friday.

Multiple reports in England state that while Alexis Sanchez seems set to move to Manchester United, Henrik Mkhitaryan has yet to agree to move the other way, as talks between the player’s agent and Arsenal continue. Mkhitaryan was seen training at Manchester United’s practice facility on Friday, and because the latest delay, both players would be unable to debut for their new teams this weekend after missing the Premier League registration deadline.

[MORE: JPW’s Premier League picks]

Arsenal hosts Crystal Palace Manchester United travels to Burnley, both on Saturday at 10 a.m. (Watch Arsenal live on CNBC, Manchester United live on NBCSN, and both live on NBCSports.com)

The London Evening Standard reports that Mkhitaryan would command a $242,000-per-week salary but that as of Friday morning he had yet to undergo a medical for the transfer. Arsenal reportedly still wants a transfer fee included for Sanchez, while Manchester United would prefer to just swap the two players.

It’s also looking as if that won’t be Arsenal’s only business in the transfer market. While it seemed like a far-fetched rumor at first, the links between Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Arsenal have only grown stronger in the past few days, and the Gabon international appears to be in the Gunners sights. It appears that Bordeaux’s young striker Malcolm is now off the table.