D.C. United’s Arriola shining for USMNT

MLS league play has taken a hiatus over the last few weeks, but that will all change this Wednesday, when D.C. United returns to the pitch for two exciting matchups.

The other taking place on Sunday, Wednesday’s contest features a match between the Black and Red and Orlando City FC. Does everyone remember when they were at Audi Field last year, when Wayne Rooney made the play of the year in stoppage time?

Saturday pits the Black and Red against another Eastern Conference foe in Toronto FC, but we will touch those topics in our previews this week.

In the meantime, while Washington was anticipating for MLS action to resume as well as D.C. United’s close battle for the top of the Eastern Conference, Paul Arriola has represented the Black and Red on the biggest stage of the country. The US Men’s National Team took part in the 2019 Gold Cup.

A few weeks ago, Team USA played at Audi Field in a 1-0 loss to Jamaica in an international friendly. They took part in one more friendly shortly after, and then it was time for Gold Cup action.

In the opener of Gold Cup action last Tuesday, Arriola opened the scoring in the 27th minute en route to a 4-0 Team USA win over Guyana in Saint Paul. Using his speed to out-hustle a defender, Arriola took a forward pass from midfielder Weston McKennie and went bottom-shelf right corner to put the USMNT on the scoresheet.

Arriola nearly had another one. After Tyler Boyd made it 2-0, Arriola had a great look and a shot top-shelf right corner, but it was deflected off forward Gyasi Zardes.

In the second game, Team USA continued their dominance on the pitch with a 6-0 win over Trindad and Tobago. This included a 5-0 route just the second half alone. Arriola’s strike came in the 77th minute, with a great tap-in drive to the net off a pass from Jordan Morris.

While some fans in Washington talk about the dynamic duo of Wayne Rooney and Luciano Acosta, Paul Arriola has been the backbone for the club in the locker room. This was shown last season, when Arriola missed a good portion of the homestretch due to loss of his father, Arturo Arriola III, at the age of 48.

In a critical match last season against FC Dallas, Russell Canouse, who is a close friend of Arriola, had the game-winning goal and dedicated it to his good friend Paul. It was also Canouse’s first MLS goal.

“It was a special moment for me. But that goal was for him,” Canouse told reporters after the match.

Arriola had seven goals and eight assists in 25 starts. He has started in 14 of D.C. United’s 15 games thus far in 2019 and has three goals.

Team USA has one more game in Group D knockout round this Wednesday against Panama, which is around the time the Black and Red return to the pitch for the second half of their game against Orlando City SC.

Soccer fans throughout D.C. are rooting hard for Arriola to help put the USMNT back on the map, after being unqualified during last summer’s FIFA World Cup.

Top photo credit: SBI Soccer

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