Aron Johannsson's opportunistic goal on a lunging header between two defenders in Dutch league action last weekend provided the latest evidence that he could emerge as an American scoring threat in Brazil this June.
Johannsson scored in the 21st minute for AZ Alkmaar in a 1-1 tie with Utrecht in the Eredivisie. Johannsson played a full match, a relief for U.S. Soccer Federation officials after the striker had left a match early this month with a groin pull.
Last weekend's goal was Johannsson's team-leading 14th of the season in Eredivisie action, which ranks third in the league. It was also his 22nd goal in 35 matches in all competitions.
Johannsson is relatively new to the U.S. national team. The 23-year-old was born in Alabama to Icelandic parents, but moved back to Iceland in his youth and was a member of that nation's under-21 national side. He missed out on his first opportunity to play for Iceland's senior national team in late 2012 because of a groin injury and last year filed to make himself eligible to compete for the United States.
Johannsson made his U.S. national team debut last August and since has scored one goal for the Americans in a 3-2 victory over Panama in World Cup qualifying. He is showing increasing signs of pushing top U.S. forward Jozy Altidore for playing time in Jurgen Klinsmann's preferred 4-2-3-1 formation.
Klinsmann, who wants U.S. players honing their skills in Europe, had this to say on the USSF website a few months ago, as Johannsson started making his mark as AZ Alkmaar's premier scoring threat: ''Seeing Aron Johannsson breaking through and scoring goals at AZ Alkmaar, especially the way he scores goals, is really nice. ... He has the qualities to be cold blooded in front of the goal. ... We hope to see him grow now every month a little bit more.''
GOING GREEN: German-American Julian Green, an 18-year-old winger who made his debut with Bayern Munich in a Champions League game last November, has accepted an invitation to train with the U.S. team leading up to its March 5 exhibition at Ukraine - a match that could be moved or called off because of violence in that nation.
Klinsmann posted his thoughts on the matter on the social media website Twitter on Monday evening, writing: ''We are excited that Julian Green will be joining the (hash)USMNT Senior National Team training camp for two days in Frankfurt.''
It's too early to tell whether the decision by Green, who was previously on Germany's under-19 roster, has any significance for the U.S. World Cup squad. While Green would be unlikely to take playing time from Altidore, Johannsson and Eddie Johnson up front, he is versatile enough to slide into one of the outside midfield.
GOALS ABROAD: Johannsson wasn't the only American to find the back of the net last weekend. Boyd, Sacha Kljestan and Daniel Williams also scored in European action.
Boyd scored for Rapid Vienna as a late substitute in a 2-1 loss at Admira Wacker Moedling in the Austrian Bundesliga.
Williams scored a 10th minute goal for Reading in a 3-1 victory over Queens Park Rangers in the English League Championship, that nation's second-tier professional league.
Kljestan scored for Anderlecht of the Belgian Pro League in a 2-0 triumph over Mons. He found the net with a leaping header in the 37th minute, directing the ball downward and inside the left post. He used another deft header in the 18-yard box to assist on Venezuelan Ronald Vargas' 49th-minute goal.
BACK IN ACTION: Fabian Johnson, a midfielder and defender for Hoffenheim in the German Bundesliga, returned last weekend from a broken hand against Nuremberg on Jan. 25, playing the full match in 4-1 victory over Stuttgart. Meanwhile, midfielder Alejandro Bedoya, who'd been out two weeks with a groin pull, returned for Nantes of France Ligue 1, playing the entire way in a 0-0 tie at Nice.