Arnar Johannsson’s list of accomplishments on the soccer field is impressive. The six-foot-three senior scored 18 goals in 2002 and helped the Colonials win their first Atlantic 10 Championship in team history. He was named the 2001 A-10 Rookie of the Year and has a knack for coming through in the clutch.
But GW Head Coach George Lidster said Johannsson, who is not one of the team’s co-captains, could be much better if he wanted to be.
“He’s playing, but he’s not 100 percent yet,” Lidster said. “Then again, I’ve never seen him 100 percent fit.”
The 24-year old native of Iceland already has four goals this season but is still recovering from a knee injury that limited his time on the practice field between the end of last season and this year.
“I’ve had my injuries, but hopefully I’ll get there soon,” Johannsson said. “The speed of play is at a high level here. When you get tired, you make mistakes. If you’re fit on the field, you can do whatever you want, and I know I need to work on that.”
The hardest part of college soccer, Johannsson said, is the speed of the game. Unlike the international competition he grew up playing in, a coach can substitute players frequently in collegiate play. Johannsson said this makes it difficult if a player is not fit, since opposing coaches always seem to send a fresh wave of defenders at him. He also said the game’s speed has been a problem because his conditioning is not where it should be.
“Sometimes the opposition plays faster and more physical than he’s used to,” Lidster said. “He’s injury prone, he had an operation in the spring, and he didn’t play all summer. He just rehabbed. Then, the first day of practice, he got another injury.”
If Johannsson was more motivated and better fit, Lidster said the forward could be playing professionally right now. But he commended the fact that Johannsson chose to go to college.
“He’s got experience. You can’t inject experience. Some players are born with it,” he said. “He knows the tricks, he’s really confident and that’s what makes him a little bit special. If he had the motivation and ambition and he was willing to sacrifice, I think he could (play at the professional level). But maybe the academic route is his way.”
Johannsson said it is unlikely he will play at professional level but did not rule out the possibility.
“I had the option to turn pro when I was 17, but I decided to finish high school,” he said. “I think I made up my mind then. If I have an injury- free season, you never know. I haven’t really thought about it that much.”
Johannsson said he enjoys going to college in the U.S. and has not had much trouble getting used to American culture. As a freshman, he did not speak much English. But now he is fluent in the language. He said he lives a normal student life and likes to play golf in his spare time. He also has an Icelandic girlfriend who lives in Washington, so, he quipped, his phone bills are not too bad.
At 24, he is older than most of his teammates and co-captain Fabio Andrade said Johannsson is naturally closest to his fellow seniors. Andrade also said the team’s strong international presence has helped Johannsson. Other foreign-born players include Sean Ross of Trinidad and Ben Mortimer of England. Lidster is also a British native.
Most players described Johannsson as a uniquely comical character on the team.
“He’s got a dry sense of humor,” Lidster said. “Sometimes he comes out with an outburst, a really frustrated outburst that’s half Icelandic and half English that nobody can understand.”
Midfielders Matt Miller and Jeremiah Burke said Johannsson has a virtually unexplainable, dry sense of humor.
On the field, however, Miller said Johannsson is all business and is an invaluable asset to GW soccer.
“On the field he always wants the ball,” he said. “He scored 18 goals last year, so I think it works for us.”