Aron Johannsson has inked a new deal with Dutch outfit AZ Alkmaar, ample reward for the American striker's terrific 2013-14 season in the Eredivisie.
The 23-year-old, who is expected to significantly contribute toward the United States men's national team at this summer's World Cup, can head into the tournament knowing his form is appreciated at the AFAS Stadion, as reported by the club's official website and via Football Oranje:
Johannsson posted a breakout season with Alkmaar, netting 17 goals and providing seven assists in 34 appearances for Marco van Basten's side, per WhoScored.com. Blessed with intelligence and creativity around the box, Johannsson follows in the footsteps of fellow American Jozy Altidore by ripping through the Dutch division's best defences.
While Altidore chose to move after his terrific spell on the continent—a transfer to Sunderland that has so far been ill-advised—Johannsson has opted to stay put. The developing star's emergence, combined with Altidore's horrific record of one goal in 31 Premier League appearances during the 2013-14 campaign, has seen Johannsson thrust to the forefront of USA's World Cup hopes.
His goal during Tuesday's friendly against Azerbaijan certainly gives Jurgen Klinsmann something to think about. Johannsson is a classy finisher, someone who can carve open opportunities inside the opposition's box but is less suited to holding the ball up through physical force, something Altidore offers.
Considering Klinsmann also has a confident Chris Wondolowski and Clint Dempsey to consider—plus the choice between using a lone striker or a pair of forwards—tactical sacrifices could see the nation's attackers rotated. The US face relentless challenges against Germany, Portugal and Ghana at the upcoming tournament, three matches where Altidore's hold-up play is likely to be needed.
Even so, Johannsson is excited to be involved:
Johannsson will be hoping to help Alkmaar into the Champions League now his future is decided. An eighth-placed finish and Europa League playoff loss ensures his exposure will be minimal beyond the Netherlands during the 2014-15 campaign, but he has the quality to help the famous club back to the upper echelons of the Dutch league.
Alkmaar will be extremely pleased to have tied Johannsson up for the next four years. The decision ensures the striker is unavailable even if he makes an impact at the World Cup, forward-thinking business by the Cheese Farmers.
Johannsson can now fully focus on USA's stint in Brazil, where he will need to play out of his skin to fill a Landon Donovan-shaped hole.