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Aron Jóhannsson linked with Stoke City: Are U.S. fans ready for another player at the Britannia?

Jan 5, 2014, 4:40 PM EDT

Britain Scotland United States Soccer

Eight million dollars is a lot of money, but it’s not that much when you’re talking about a 23-year-old averaging nearly two goals every three games in the Dutch first division. That, however, is the price that’s being mentioned in rumors connecting the Premier League’s Stoke City with a move for U.S. international Aron Jóhannsson, who is coming up on his one-year anniversary with AZ Alkmaar.  In the same transfer window in which he moved last season, the Alabama-born, Iceland-raised forward could be ready to take another step up, this time to one of the best leagues in the world.

Since moving to Holland from Danish club Aarhus last January, Jóhannsson has scored 14 times in 23 league appearances, 11 of those goals coming this season. Purchased for $2.58 million 12 months ago, Johannsson’s quick sale would allow last season’s Dutch Cup winners to turn  quick profit. If the move happens early in the window, they could be able to take a fraction of the profits and procure a new striker.

In what’s become a seller’s league, the question is less ‘can we afford to lose Jóhannsson’ than ‘could we get more later’? Sitting 13 points back after 18 (of 34) rounds, AZ have European but not title ambitions, something which may not prevent them from cashing in.

But we’re not here to discuss the AZ angle, as interesting as that is. If Jóhannsson wasn’t a U.S. international, this rumor wouldn’t warrant enough attention to make our daily rumor roundup. All the intrigue in this market behind a potential move is Jóhansson’s already much-discussed Americanness. And in that regard, Stoke couldn’t be a more controversial destination.

The Potters are the biggest Amerophiles in Europe, holding three U.S. internationals under contract and launching a failed move for a fourth this fall. But while Geoff Cameron has seen success, Brek Shea and Maurice Edu can’t get any time with Stoke (Juan Agudelo’s move fizzled after failing to gain a United Kingdom work permit). Six months ahead of the World Cup, how does it help the U.S. if Jóhannsson becomes a third player to see Stoke’s U.S. fetish compromise a regular place in the national team?

source: Reuters

Although Geoff Cameron is the one American to win regular time at Stoke, he has had to move to a new position to do so. (Photo: Rueters.)

Even Cameron’s success is tinged with one forgotten asterisk. A center back and central midfielder upon arriving at the Britannia, the former Houston Dynamo has been used at right back by both Tony Pulis and Mark Hughes. Yes, that move has earned him a regular spot with a decent Premier League team (never something to sneeze at), but it’s also cast Cameron as a type of utility man for the national team, with ‘utility man’ often the nicest way of saying somebody isn’t a starter. While the move has been a success for Cameron’s club career, it hasn’t helped him nail down the starting position he was competing for before moving to England.

After Edu’s disappearance and Shea’s loan to Barnsley, you can’t blame U.S. fans for wondering if a future at Stoke holds something for different for Jóhannsson. Yet whereas concerns about previous moves were tinged with trepidation about playing under Pulis’s atypical approach, now worries take a more traditional tact. Will Jóhansson actually play? Because whereas that was also problematic under Pulis, regular time under Mark Hughes would certainly further Jóhansson’s career.

To get that, he’d have to beat out Peter Crouch, the former England international who’s started 14 games for Hughes this season. Kenwyne Jones is also in the picture, with Jon Walters and Marko Arnautovic also capable of playing up top. But on talent alone, there’s no reason why Jóhannsson can’t eventually win significant time at Stoke.

But eventually is not now, and in a World Cup year — with a player who is right on that borderline to make the Brazil 2014 squad — it’s a chance not worth taking. As Jozy Altidore is discovering, transferring success from the goal-friendly Eredivisie to the Premier League is far from given. Not everybody can be Luis Suárez, and given Johannsson’s only make 23 career league appearances above the Danish league, there’s reason to think adjustment period might be particularly pronounced for the 23-year-old.

More than his Americanness, that’s what should concern U.S. Men’s National Team fans. It’s not that Jóhannsson lacks the talent (he doesn’t) or his status as a U.S. international makes him more likely to fail at Stoke (it doesn’t). The concern is the timeline before Brazil.

We’re six months out from the next World Cup, and players in frame for Jurgen Klinsmann’s squad need to be playing. Making a move from a sure-fire, you’re going to start every game environment to a new league, new club, and new depth chart could put Jóhannsson’s World Cup dreams in doubt.

Besides, if Stoke are interested now, they’ll still be interested in six months. Saying ‘no’ in January doesn’t mean you’ve turned your back on England. It just means you’re setting your sights on Brazil.

  1. jslip1 - Jan 5, 2014 at 4:47 PM

    This is a pretty scary proposition.

  2. unclemosesgreen - Jan 5, 2014 at 4:56 PM

    Terrible move for Aron if he goes. I’d like to see him add more strength before moving.over to the BPL. Jozy is a big, strong guy, no one is going to bully him. The same can’t be said of Aron.

    • icereaper10 - Jan 6, 2014 at 12:06 AM

      Aron doesn’t need to move to the BPL. He should wait until after the WC because if he keeps scoring goals at AZ and has a good WC he will have much better offers. I think his style of play better suits him in La Liga, Bundesliga and Serie A.

      • unclemosesgreen - Jan 6, 2014 at 5:57 AM

        Totally agree, but it’s not in his hands. If they sell him, I hope it’s to La Liga, both of those other leagues are too physical for him at this stage of his development.

      • bear06 - Jan 7, 2014 at 1:36 AM

        I think he would be fine unless he gets played as the lone striker which is not his style.

      • bear06 - Jan 7, 2014 at 8:37 PM

        Also it is in his hands and he could choose one of the serious interested clubs he wants to go, whether it’s this month or later in the summer. Jozy decided to go to Sunderland last year but he could of decided to stay at AZ for another year or go to a different club.

  3. Sgc - Jan 5, 2014 at 5:20 PM

    Not that it answers the questions about Aron, I gotta disagree about Cameron. Much as we debate the merits of going into certain club situations (such as overly defensive or relegation threatened etc) in Europe vs enjoying the guaranteed minutes in MLS, Cameron is the best argument in *favor* of going.

    Cameron wasn’t in position to start for the US when he left MLS. Moving to the right back position (where he’s now getting reliable minutes) is the reason he might be a starter come Brazil, which he never would have been at d-mid. I’d say he will be, if Cherundulo doesn’t make a nearly 100% full recovery and Chandler doesn’t have a miraculous resurgence.

    All in all, I’d give him a 2-in-3 shot to be our starting RB *because* of his time at Stoke, not in spite of it.

  4. pjbowmaster - Jan 5, 2014 at 5:50 PM

    Do Stoke own the rights to Juan Agudelo? If so, is it possible he could be heading to AZ with Johansson going to the Potters in some type of loan/transfer/trade deal?

    • overtherepermanently - Jan 5, 2014 at 6:06 PM

      No, the move was not completed. No contract was signed.

    • bostonredsoccer - Jan 5, 2014 at 8:49 PM

      No, but they are still talking to him about signing and then going out on loan. It would be an interesting move to acquire Aron and loan Juan to AZ.

  5. jucam1 - Jan 5, 2014 at 6:00 PM

    Jozy is not EPL worthy and it has now been proven, Johanssen has a shot but I agree with some of the above posters, he might get manhandled in a legit league where he can dominate un the MLS for a couple if years and work on developing his body. I could def be wrong and he might be further along. The decision is made tough by the massive mistake Altodore made by going to the ePL when he wasnt a player worthy of it

    • bear06 - Jan 7, 2014 at 8:38 PM

      It’s Johannsson and no he does not need to go to MLS to work on developing his body. That’s just foolish.

  6. overtherepermanently - Jan 5, 2014 at 6:06 PM

    Stoke plan on dumping Peter Crouch on Crystal Palace. A move for Johannson would likely be contingent on the planned sale of Crouch.

  7. mdac1012 - Jan 5, 2014 at 7:05 PM

    I am all for moves to the EPL for U.S. Internationals, provided they get playing time. Agudelo not going to the EPL was I think a good move for him in the long run, he is not ready to play there yet and would have sat on the bench. I am not sure Johannsson is either. Scoring in the Dutch league and scoring in the EPL are two entirely different things.

  8. bellerophon30 - Jan 5, 2014 at 7:21 PM

    If I’m Aron, the words “Jozy Altidore to Sunderland” should be screaming in my head every time he looks at this possible deal. For strictly footballing reasons, I hope it doesn’t come off.

    But the money for him personally will likely be so much better, so I can’t blame him if he takes it. If we’re talking about middling EPL teams that he could go to, I hope it’s to Cardiff. That’s right, I said it. They have a former striker as their new boss, and he’ll know how to use Aron.

    Whatever happens will be interesting.

    • bear06 - Jan 5, 2014 at 11:55 PM

      I highly doubt he goes to either Stoke or Cardiff. I would like to see him go to a club like Southampton where they play good football and he can get plenty of service.

  9. stokecity1863 - Jan 5, 2014 at 9:13 PM

    Stoke fan here, (sorry, long post alert!) Firstly a comment about Cameron – he has been absolutely phenomenal at RB this season, for me he’s easily been our best outfield player so far and the way he’s playing at the moment, one of the best right backs we’ve had in years. He was good defensively last season, (some of his tacking is absolutely brilliant,) but now he’s used to the position, this season he’s improved massively going forward, especially with his crossing. Considering his performances and the quality of opposition he’s doing it against, Klinsmann would be mad not to see Geoff as USA’s strongest RB. Worryingly I saw a comment from him recently describing how Geoff is doing “fairly well”, which is incredibly harsh, he’s been a stand-out player for us. A real fans’ favourite, too!

    Secondly Agudelo was at the most recent Stoke game and has been with the squad a lot – going to the Stoke Christmas party etc, I’d be very surprised if we don’t sign him and loan him out until he can get a work permit. The only reason he didn’t get one in the first place was silly politics following comments about too many foreign youngsters in the Premier League damaging the future of the England football team. He should be given a permit next time.

    Thirdly, about Johannson, we are absolutely desperate for a striker. We have been linked very strongly with John Guidetti from Man City on loan and Mame Diouf from Hannover though, (who would be cheap as his contract is running out,) so I would be surprised if we do sign him, although anything can happen!
    Crouch is doing well but the manager has admitted we are looking for someone with pace. Kenwyne Jones is out of contract at the end of the season and will probably be sold this month, Hughes doesn’t seem to particularly like him anyway. Walters and Arnautovic can play up front but they are wingers, really and are only played as strikers in an emergency. Johannsson would at worst be second choice, and would suit Mark Hughes’ system much better than Crouch, so would likely be first choice if he came in and we didn’t sign anyone else. Honestly though, I know nothing about him so can’t say whether I think he’d be a success or not in the Premier League.

    One last small point. Cardiff’s new manager, Solskjaer, was a striker, yes, but so was Mark Hughes! A very, very good one! So if we do sign Johannsson, he’d be in safe hands.

    • reedineagan - Jan 9, 2014 at 12:09 AM

      I love seeing Europeans with a fair attitude toward American players. As a die-hard USMNT fan, I appreciate your club and hope you keep up the good work. +1 for you.

  10. hightopandrocket - Jan 5, 2014 at 11:40 PM

    The Dutch league is garbage, long removed from the days of Ajax of the mid 90’s, look it up…

    • bear06 - Jan 5, 2014 at 11:53 PM

      No, it’s not. It’s a great league for attacking players to develop and it’s a top 10 league in Europe.

  11. ndnut - Jan 6, 2014 at 2:04 AM

    Any Nats at Southampton would get a kit purchase from me immediately, though I doubt it will happen outside of my dreams.

    • bear06 - Jan 6, 2014 at 8:00 PM

      Have you gotten Coddy Cropper’s GK jersey yet? ; )

  12. midtec2005 - Jan 6, 2014 at 12:54 PM

    Going to Stoke would be a complete waste, wrong type of football. I’d much rather see him go to Germany.

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