Thursday September 26th, 2013

Aaron Johannsson Aron Johannsson has scored nine goals for AZ Alkmaar this season (Getty Images)

Aron Johannsson has picked up where Jozy Altidore left off at AZ Alkmaar.

The new U.S. national team striker tallied a hat trick on Wednesday as AZ defeated visiting Sparta Rotterdam, 4-1, in a Dutch Cup round-of-64 match at the AFAS Stadium. Johannsson, 22, now has nine goals in 12 games (all competitions) this season. Altidore scored 31 in 2012-13, a record for a U.S. player abroad, before moving from AZ to Sunderland of the English Premier League.

Here's a video with Johansson's first goal:

Considering Sunderland's struggles (Altidore has one goal) and the time it's taking Clint Dempsey to get comfortable in Seattle, a convincing argument could be made that Johannsson now is the hottest pure scorer at U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann's disposal. For comparison's sake, Eddie Johnson has struck nine times for the Sounders in all of 2013. Johannsson has nine since the final week of July.

Johannsson, born in Alabama to Icelandic parents, got AZ going on Wednesday with an easy fifth-minute finish at the back post. Sparta leveled terms three minutes later and the game remained tied, 1-1, heading into overtime. Johannsson lifted AZ back into the lead almost immediately, scoring his second of the game in the 91st off a pass from Nemanja Gudelj. Johannsson then added an insurance goal, and finished off his hat trick, in the 105th when he converted a cross from Johann Gudmondsson. AZ will move on to the Cup's round-of-32 at the end of October and will return to Eredivisie play on Saturday against league leaders PSV Eindhoven. It will be a good test for ninth-place AZ (3-3-1) and Johannsson, who now seems a sure bet to rejoin the U.S. for October's World Cup qualifiers in Panama and Kansas City. Even though the Americans already are through to next summer's finals in Brazil, Klinsmann has said he intends to "bring in the best players" for the last two games of the Hexagonal.
Based on his current form, Johannsson certainly qualifies. He finalized his switch to the U.S. from Iceland, which he had represented at the junior level, in August. He has played only 29 minutes for Klinsmann. But he's now making a case for many more.

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