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Paul Arriola says Arena was “very optimistic about the move” to MLS


TAMPA, FL - JULY 12: Paul Arriola #20 of the United States against Martinique during the first half of the CONCACAF Group B match at Raymond James Stadium on July 12, 2017 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)

Mike Carlson

Paul Arriola has quickly leapt up the U.S. Men’s National Team pecking order, and the young attacker has fast-tracked himself for a spot in the squad for Russia 2018.

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While the 22-year-old’s rise has been well-documented, though, Arriola was left with a tough decision this summer of where to continue his young career.

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Ultimately, the California native opted for a move to MLS with D.C. United, but it wasn’t until after a discussion with USMNT manager Bruce Arena that Arriola says he was comfortable in making the move.

“I had talked to Bruce before the move had even happened and asked his opinion and he was very optimistic about the move,” Arriola told Goal. “He believes it’s a great move for me, where I’m going to be on the field all the time and improving in the areas I need to work on. Not once did he ever say anything about worrying about my growth or my level dropping off.

“Any time you have a national team coach that can say that and give you the green light to do something it obviously makes your life easier,” Arriola added. “Not thinking about what he’s thinking and wondering if it’s the right move.”

Arena’s blessing for Arriola in MLS is a stark contrast from that of Jurgen Klinsmann, though, with the former USMNT boss a proponent of players reaching their potential overseas in Europe’s top flights.

While there still are many U.S. players in Europe, the number has certainly dwindled down as of late as more players opt for MLS. Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley -- all of whom are still key figures in the USMNT’s starting lineup -- each chose to return to play domestically in the U.S. after spending time in some of Europe’s top divisions.

Arriola believes he’s found a good fit in D.C., though, and says the club will allow him to fulfill his goals if he ever chooses to complete a move to Europe.

“D.C. United understands my aspirations, and one day if I want to go to Europe I know they’ll be open to that, which is very comforting,” Arriola said.

Arriola spent one season with the LA Galaxy’s academy from 2012 to 2013 prior to the winger’s move to Liga MX side Club Tijuana -- where he spent the last four seasons.

It was at Tijuana where Arriola began to hit his stride, making 84 appearances for the Mexican outfit and scoring four goals along the way.

The attacker’s budding success reportedly led to other serious contenders in obtaining his services this summer, with the Washington Post reporting that Orlando City SC and Portuguese side Sporting Lisbon each rated Arriola highly.