After coming to D.C. United last season as one of the biggest signings in team history, Paul Arriola had a weight of expectations going into this season. As the only designated player on the team going into the season, he was expected to have a leadership role on this team.
After starting the season in his regular right wing position, injuries and lackluster play forced Arriola into a new position: central midfield. Coached by a man who had made a similar transition, Arriola performed admirably in that role, giving it his all and generally doing well at hounding down opposing players and keeping the ball moving.
The midsummer catalysts, including the move to the 4-2-3-1, the arrival of Wayne Rooney, and the return of Russel Canouse, brought the entire team to a whole new level, with Arriola no exception. Free to move back out wide and just bomb forward, Arriola was exactly the player that we wanted him to be down the stretch of the season: 5 of his 7 goals came in this stretch of the season, and he was able to lurk dangerously as defenses tried to key in on Wayne Rooney and Luciano Acosta. His speed caused problems up and down opposing defenses, allowing Rooney and Lucho to find their own space as well.
The end of the season also saw a necessary but aggravating move (in my mind) for Arriola: as an emergency right back. Arriola has all the skills to be an emergency right back: he has good vision, great speed, and tenacity, but my issue with the move is the conditions that made it necessary. Hopefully going into 2019, the team reinforces the back line enough so that their best right winger can stay in his best position all year long.
2019, with a full preseason with Rooney and the rest of the team should allow Arriola to meet and eclipse his previous national-team level play, and I am excited to see what he can do for the team next year. There shouldn’t be any question about this one, but we have to call the question: Do you want to see Paul Arriola back in black-and-red in 2019?
Do you want Paul Arriola back in 2019?
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