Werder Bremen’s American striker Aron Johannsson has roared back to form in recent weeks, having a direct hand in two goals in his last two games. Now, after speaking to USMNT interim coach Dave Sarachan, the 27-year-old is confident a return to the international set-up is just around the corner.
bundesliga.com caught up with the outspoken striker to get his thoughts on the USA’s failure to qualify for the FIFA World Cup in Russia this summer; how Christian Pulisic, Josh Sargent and Co. can help steady the American ship, and what it means to play with Max Kruse and against Claudio Pizarro…
bundesliga.com: Aron Johannsson, you’ve been very important for Werder Bremen in recent weeks, coming off the bench to score the equaliser against Borussia Mönchengladbach on Matchday 25 [Bremen drew 2-2]. Are you satisfied with your role in the squad?
Aron Johannsson: “I’ve played some good games when I’ve started, too! At the moment I’m happy with every minute that I play, though. I’ve had to wait long enough [Johannsson missed over 300 days with a hip injury in 2015/16]. Of course, I am also a professional and, like every player, I want to be out there on the pitch.”
Watch: Highlights of Bremen's 2-2 draw with Gladbach (Johannsson's equaliser from 01:38)
bundesliga.com: The USA haven’t qualified for the World Cup in Russia, meanwhile. Given your current form do you think you’ll be recalled? Are you in contact with the interim coach, Dave Sarachan?
Johannsson: “It was a big disappointment for all of us, but we have to look forward now. We have to prevent this from happening in the future, because our individual class is far too high. We now need a short-term and long-term plan to bring US football back to the top. I’ve spoken to Sarachan a few times on the phone. He says that if I keep playing like I am then I’ll be called up again.”
Johannsson: “Christian Pulisic is one of the best young talents in the world. We’re delighted that he plays for our national team. Hopefully he continues to develop so well, then he’ll be one of the leading players for the US team. I haven’t seen McKennie play that often yet, but he’s certainly developing well and worked his way up from the reserves to play for Schalke’s first team.”
bundesliga.com: Do you think Pulisic has the ability to play for Bayern Munich, Real Madrid or Barcelona?
Johannsson: “Without a doubt. He has the quality to play for a world-class club. But he’s still young and has a lot left to learn yet.”
bundesliga.com: Werder also have an interesting US talent of their own in Josh Sargent. What’s your impression of him?
Johannsson: “Josh is doing very well in training. But I don’t want to say too much about him, because he’s still very young and has to work hard on himself; harder than ever. He has a lot of talent, but with a lot of talent you also have to work very hard. But I think we’ll soon see him in the Werder Bremen first team.”
bundesliga.com: Bremen’s current primary goal threat is Max Kruse. What makes him stand out?
Johannsson: “He just has an uncanny quality. It’s surprising to me that he doesn’t get called up for Germany. There aren’t many German players who have the same qualities. He has ideas and vision and can play passes like nobody else.”
bundesliga.com: Werder legend Claudio Pizarro will return with Cologne on Monday. You also played alongside him. Is he a role model for you?
Johannsson: “He’s a legend and a great role model for me! When he was here in Bremen, he worked on himself before, during and after training to keep his body healthy. I was very happy for him that he scored his first Cologne goal last week [Pizarro scored in the Billy Goats 3-2 loss to VfB Stuttgart last Sunday, meaning he has now scored 20 Bundesliga goals in the last 20 calendar years]. But in Bremen I’d be happy for him not to score (laughs)!”
Watch: Johannsson on his USA hopes
Johannsson: “I’m very happy that he’s now my coach and has given me the chance to play again. He wants us to play attacking football. He wants us to be active, and know what everyone else on the pitch has to do. It’s thanks to the coach that team’s working so well.”
bundesliga.com: Bremen have been praised for their attacking play in recent weeks, yet you remain in a relegation battle. How come?
Johannsson: “It doesn’t matter to us what people say or write. We’re focused on our goals, and we want to look up, not down. We have a good chance against Cologne on Monday. If we win we can start looking forward again. At the moment it doesn’t matter if we play well or not. The main thing is that we score.”
Johannsson was speaking to Alexander Barklage