I was so close to buying a Paul Arriola Xolos shirt from last year. Yeah, the new home kits are even cooler, but buying last year’s shirt works with my budget. Then DC United dropped the bombshell of their transfer window, and now I’m really happy I held off.
Yes, I’m a DC United fan. No this season hasn’t been any fun. Yes, I’m bordering on fanboy status for Paul Arriola [you’re already there, Jon – Ed.], and watching him play is always fun. So what does this three million dollar transfer mean for the young USMNT winger, and for one of Major League Soccer’s flagship franchises?
For the 22 year old Arriola, the big money move to DC United represents a different kind of pressure than a move overseas. Now you’re probably saying, “wait just a second there super-fan numero veinte, there was little to no chatter about Arriola going to Europe.” Yeah, well there was little to no chatter about him going to DC United either. I’m basing the European possibility on a likely next step for the player being bandied about by a few respected English language Liga MX reporters, not my own delusions of grandeur for the Paul. I mean, would anyone have been that surprised to see him end up in the lower reaches of the French or Portuguese first division? That said, we watched Arriola’s contemporary Jordan Morris choose MLS over the Bundesliga, and that’s meant all his learning/adjusting/bad moments play out on TV rather than on the training ground. I’m not sure that represents a greater pressure than trying to score as many goals as Max Kruse in practice at Werder Bremen in order to hopefully avoid a loan to a lesser league, but it’s certainly different. Arriola will now have that American-in-MLS spotlight pressure as well, but he’s joining a last place team in the midst of a rebuild, not a title contender.
DC United’s run of bad form and subsequent roster changes mean that Arriola doesn’t have to be quite the immediate pressure player that Jordan Morris was for Seattle in his first season. The moments only get so big when there’s no possibility of winning anything. But for his national team prospects, Arriola better at least look useful after a Gold Cup that featured more good technical moments in eventually fruitless buildup than end-product leading to goals. And it’s worthy of note that by all accounts, this is not a step up in class. Liga MX is better than MLS, as they remind us every year in CONCACAF Champions League and in the number of players making successful jumps to better leagues in the southern and eastern hemispheres. So Paul better not look pedestrian. Arriola’s going to have to create goals in MLS, and I think he will, with flare. Sometimes from right back… I mean, how long’s it going to take for Ben Olsen to play him there?
From a team perspective, everything DC United is doing is geared towards putting a contender into Audi Field (which I’ll refer to as Buzzard Point, because you don’t get a cooler site name) when it opens next June. As for the rest of this season, they’ll take a golazo or two to go with some high speed skill moves out of Arriola (and fellow new recruit Zoltan Stieber) to pair with some silky Lucho Acosta moments in preseason hype videos.
So now the question is, do I snag this year’s United Arriola jersey, or do I wait to see what Adidas drops for 2018?
Jon Levy is co-founder of The Yanks Are Coming. Follow him on Twitter @TYAC_Jon.