Paul Arriola. WOW. Just WOW.
Every now and then I get reminded why I fell in love with sports many years ago. Sometimes it’s a game like game 7 of the 2016 World Series that does the trick. But more often than not, it is a story of a guy that believed in himself when nobody else did, that comes to the forefront. This time we’re going to take a look at how Xolos’ defender Paul Arriola went from an unknown to a USMNT player.
Arriola started playing soccer in Temecula for a club called Arsenal, and in 2012 he got into L.A. Galaxy academy. In December of that same year, the Xolos invited him to practice with their first team. After some debate, Arriola decided to move on from L.A. and to the border city club.
He made his debut for the Xolos in a friendly against Club America at Petco Park. Being a native of Chula Vista, I imagine that must have been a dream come true for the youngster.
For the last few seasons, Arriola has been in and out of the Xolos’ line ups for various reasons that are not relevant to this piece. But when Miguel Herrera got the job at Tijuana, Arriola quickly became one of his go-to guys.
This season, Arriola has been playing like a man possessed. I’ve been fortunate enough to cover every Xolos game for EVT, and most media members agree that Arriola has been one of the driving forces behind the Xolos strong showing so far this season. He always plays with discipline and desire. These two factors are vital in a sport as unpredictable as soccer. I first noticed him in the Xolos’ victory over Puebla. In that game, he scored a goal and showed fantastic skill throughout the match.
But the moment that most people will remember came this March, when his goal proved to be enough to bounce mighty Club America from Copa Mx. That scoring play was Arriola’s season in a nutshell, as it took heart and talent to run through the defense and put the ball just out of the goalkeeper’s reach. So for the U.S. Men’s team to come calling was not a matter of if, but a matter of when.
After the U.S. embarrassed Honduras in Friday night’s World Cup Qualifying match, the squad suffered a couple of injuries to its midfield. Manager, Bruce Arena, who is not afraid of giving opportunities to young players, came calling. Paul Arriola probably won’t see the field this Tuesday against Panamá, but the fact that the head coach of the U.S. decided to give him a look is a step in the right direction for the local kid. If Arriola can continue his level of play for the Xolos, it won’t be long before he becomes a vital player for the USMNT.