There is no question American soccer has grown by leaps and bounds since World Cup 1994, but the country is still not where it expected to be in 2014. No longer are they the laughingstock of the international game but instead a well respected country that produces great goalkeepers and hardworking players. It can be assumed that the international heavy hitters (England, Spain, Italy, Germany, etc.) will only shift their perception when a young yank takes the world by storm and excels at a Champions League caliber European team. But before that happens the media will be left looking for, and to a fault, trying to find that first young product. Whoever the flavor of the week is, the media jumps on board to classify as the next Pele. It has been seen before with Freddy Adu, Eddie Johnson, Charlie Davies and now Juan Agudelo. In their formative years, these players have been asked not only to lead a team but also lead a nation. The pressure is huge, and as you can see from the names above many fail.
When projecting the 2014 World Cup, besides Landon Donovan, the roster has few names once called teenage proteges. The roster is mostly built with veterans who were given time to mature into their game. You can add Jozy Altidore’s name to the list of future media proclaimed superstars. At the tender age of 17 he made the move to Villarreal, but it was too much, too soon and he flopped. So the U.S. media moved on and so did Altidore. He succeeded without the media’s attention and put together a successful 2013 campaign. After his 23-goal season the attention was right back on him. Once again he was in the spotlight with the media naming him the savior.
Altidore’s time in the limelight has literally and figuratively opened the door for fellow American, Aron Johannsson. Johannsson has stepped in nicely to the vacant starting spot at AZ Alkmaar and begun to establish a strong reputation for himself. But what Altidore really did was deflect the media attention from Johannsson as he was scoring goals at a record rate. In years past, the media would have jumped on the story and been the first to crown Johannsson, but for once they had two Americans to follow. And the Altidore story was more developed and involved an English market. This has allowed Johannsson to learn his game with out expectations. And that he did; Johannsson currently sits on 10 goals and is making the most of his opportunity. He is hoping that his good form parlays into not only a ticket to Brazil but playing time. The upcoming months are huge for the striker as he currently sits behind the out of form, Altidore in the striker peeking order. Once again Jozy has opened the door, so expect Johannsson to push for the starting spot. The lanky but technical AZ Alkmaar forward has a European swagger to his game that few American can contend with. He brings something completely unique to the American team and at a minimum should be utilized. During the past season, Johannsson has stacked the chips in his favor with the only thing going against the young Icelandic raised striker being the American World Cup schedule, and in each of their three fixtures they are sure to play with a lone target man leaving one of the two out of the lineup. If Johansson continues to mature as a player expect to see him make the discussion difficult of who to lead the Americans going in to World Cup 2014.