If you thought Josh Sargent was the only American striker on the books at Werder Bremen, think again: Aron Johannsson is gradually working his way back from a long-term injury that nearly caused him to quit the game and is now more determined than ever to make an impact in the Bundesliga this season and return to the USMNT roster.
Johannsson joined Bremen in August 2015 from Dutch side AZ Alkmaar but has been restricted to just 27 Bundesliga outings since then due to a series of injuries. The latest episode - a persistent ankle complaint - has kept the 28-year-old sidelined since July 2018, but he returned to the pitch this week, joining his teammates for sections of training as they prepared for Sunday's match in Wolfsburg.
"I'd waited so long to return so when I was actually out there again, it was indescribable," Johannsson told Bild. "I'm just so happy to be able to play football again. My foot still stiffens up sometimes, but I wouldn't call it painful. I've trained a lot recently, doing two sessions per day six days a week. I'm well prepared. The plan is for me to take part in full training regularly in a couple of weeks."
Watch: Johannsson's last goal for Bremen, the equaliser in a 2-2 draw with Borussia Mönchengladbach on Matchday 25 last season
The 19-time USA international is therefore hopeful of making a comeback in the Bundesliga this season. "I've often showed that I can return from a long injury and score goals," he said. "But obviously it would also be beneficial for me to get some match practice in the U23s."
Johannsson describes himself as "a positive person" who is happy "98 per cent of the time", but he admits he considered quitting football as he recovered from this latest setback.
"I still had a lot of pain after seven months. Then I had one of those rare bad days. I was at home and said to my wife, 'maybe it's the end of the line. I'll have to see what else I can do'. I briefly thought about ending my career, but thankfully she was able to calm me down and told me I needed to be patient. The next day I was in a good mood again."
His mood would undoubtedly improve even further should he make a first-team return before the season is out, although that might be easier said than done given the fierce competition for places up front in Bremen.
Florian Kohfeldt's side are the only Bundesliga club – one of just three in Europe – to have scored in every league game this term, while Max Kruse, Johannes Eggestein, Yuya Osako, Claudio Pizarro and Sargent are all vying for a place in the team.
Unsurprisingly, Johannsson has struck up a good relationship with fellow American Sargent. "I'm delighted for him," he said of his young compatriot's emergence this season. "He's an unbelievable talent. If he keeps going and doesn't lose focus he can become a very, very good striker.
"He's only 19, but physically he's more developed than that. Josh can hold the ball up well and is a killer in front of goal. It's important that he keeps his feet on the ground, but I'm not worried about him at all. We talk every day and are good friends. He's just a normal guy. We both have the same aim: one day we want to play together for Bremen and the USA."