Paul Arriola: Bruce Arena's blessing made move to D.C. United an easy decision

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The former Tijuana Xolos midfielder sought the U.S. national team coach's advice ahead of a summer move, and he told him an MLS transfer made sense

Transfer moves can sometimes be tricky propositions for young players who have only recently broken into the national team picture. Make the wrong move or a move your national team coach doesn't see as helping you, and it could wind up working against you.

Paul Arriola had no such qualms to worry about as he worked toward a transfer to D.C. United. The U.S. midfielder sought Bruce Arena's advice and the coach made it clear that he believed an MLS move could help Arriola as he transitions into a regular role with the national team.

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"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 in his first interview after completing his transfer to D.C. United. "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 was a far cry from the type of concern over moves to MLS expressed by Arena's predecessor, Jurgen Klinsmann, who memorably expressed concern about seeing U.S. national team players leaving stronger leagues for MLS. Klinsmann's concern about moves wasn't limited to MLS though. Sources tell Goal that Klinsmann objected strongly to moves to the English second division as well, with Danny Williams and DeAndre Yedlin being two players who Klinsmann expressed disappointment with after moves to the League Championship.

Paul Arriola USA

For Arriola, the blockbuster move to D.C. United marks a four-year journey that took him from an 18-year-old rookie who the LA Galaxy offered a minimum salary contract to, to a U.S. national team regular and subject of a $3 million transfer and contract that will pay him approximately $1 million a year.

"You look at the situation I was in four years ago, working hard and having the right opportunities at Club Tijuana has helped launch me into the position I’m in now," Arriola said. "It wasn't always easy, and there were definitely some tough moments, but going through that made me stronger and helped me get to this point."

Arriola's success at Club Tijuana has served as a model for young Americans to consider following as they search for opportunities abroad, but now that he is officially in MLS, Arriola is hoping he can help show young Americans a new path.

"I feel like I can really help pave the way for more American players to not just come back, but maybe stay in MLS and have the confidence they can grow here," Arriola said. "Watching the league grow over the past four years, and knowing it is heading in a good direction, makes me excited about this move."

Paul Arriola Tijuana

Arriola is happy to embark on an MLS journey, but it doesn't mean he has given up on potentially making a move to Europe down the road. Arriola could have made a move to the Netherlands this summer, but believed the opportunity with D.C. United was a better fit. He let D.C. know that, as a 22-year-old, other opportunities could present themselves, especially if he continues to do well with the U.S. national team.

"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.

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Right now, Arriola's focus is on adapting to a new team and new league, and he'll have some familiar faces around to help him do that, including long-time friend and former U.S. youth national team teammate Russell Canouse, who also joined D.C. United this week. As much as this season has been a disappointing one for D.C. United, the club's aggressive approach to the summer transfer window, and the looming opening of its new stadium,Audi Field, has Arriola anxious to get started and eager to build toward his goal of making the 2018 World Cup team.

"Making the World Cup team is obviously a dream for everybody, and being able to become a regular, and play in some big games with the national team has really given me the confidence that the World Cup is in reach," Arriola said. "Being able to play regularly with D.C. United and sharpen my game is going to help me keep building on this great year, and the great four years I had in Tijuana."

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