BRIAN SCIARETTA - Monday, May 6, 2013
Paul Arriola is one of the more promising American teenage forwards and he is now set to begin his professional career after signing with Club Tijuana last week.
For Arriola, 17, the decision to join Club Tijuana was indeed a long process. The club has been in touch with Arriola constantly during the past two years and invited Arriola to two separate training stints with the club - the most recent coming this past January. During his last time to play with Club Tijuana, Arriola felt comfortable with the club's team and coaching staff.
"Coaches were great, players were great on and off the field, and I was able to still be at home which made it just that much is better," Arriola told YA. "Overall, both of my experiences down there were wonderful experiences and I could picture Tijuana as my possible home from the beginning."
Arriola will arrive in Tijuana after playing the past year with the LA Galaxy's academy team. While he was with the Galaxy, he had the opportunity to train with the first team and play at a high level. The decision, however, to leave the club and join Tijuana was difficult.
Founded in 2007, Club Tijuana is a new club but it has seen remarkable growth in its brief his tory. In 2011, it earned promotion to Liga Mx and with increased spending on players as well as infrastructure improvements including a massive stadium expansion, it has become one of the better teams in Mexico.
Tijuana won the Apetura title in 2012, just 18 months after being promoted, and is currently in the Round of 16 in the Copa Libertadores. With the success on the field, the club has seen increased popularity both in Mexico as well as Arriola's native Southern California.
In the end, he opted to sign a four year contract with Club Tijuana over staying with the Galaxy because he believed it was the best option to develop as a young player. The club currently has several Americans within the organization with Edgar Castillo, Joe Corona, and Gregory Garza playing on the first team while Stevie Rodriguez and Alejandro Guido play on the U-20 team for Xolos.
"After being in both places, I just decided that what was really important to me was my development as a player," Arriola said of his decision. "It was a very tough decision to leave Galaxy, but my decision was one that I took a long time deciding what I believed was best for myself and my soccer career. Galaxy is a great club and they did play a big role in my development. I was able to understand what it takes to be a top professional athlete that I would've never been able to experience anywhere else in the academy league and I thank them for that."
"Tijuana as a club has really gotten big especially in San Diego," Arriola added. "Xolos is a home team in two cities, Tijuana and San Diego now and I think it is a great thing not only for the Club but for the young players in Southern California to have an opportunity to be notice by a professional club close to them. It is a win-win for both sides of the border."
Arriola, who is in the process of obtaining a Mexican passport through his family's ancestry, has had many discussions with Tijuana's staff about what is expected of him as a player and all parties believe that he is likely to feature primarily with Xolos' U-20 team in 2013/14. He has already familiar with the coaching staff and knows that it will be an extremely challenging and competitive environment to earn minutes.
Arriola is a native of Chula Vista, California which is located just minutes from the Mexican border entering the city of Tijuana. While many young Americans who move abroad to play struggle with adjusting to a new culture, Arriola's adjustment playing abroad won't be as difficult as he will live at home and cross the border every day to play.
My first season as a professional I would like to get settled in with the team and club and really be a factor in games," Arriola said. "I also want to make a name for myself down there. I hope to debut as soon as they believe I am ready. I am expected to play mostly with the club's Under 20 team. I think the transition to play in Mexico might be tough, or it might not be. Regardless, I know I am going to have to work harder than ever before and focus on getting better every day."
In addition to joining Club Tijuana next year, Arriola is likely to play a part in next U-20 cylce as it progresses to the 2015 U-20 World Cup. Arriola has been playing primarily with the US U-18 team but last month made his debut with the U-20 team has he was selected by head coach Tab Ramos to take part in a camp and an inter-squad scrimmage.
The 2015 cycle is likely to begin soon after this summer's U-20 World Cup and it will feature many players who have already earned professional contracts. Arriola considers it a top priority of his to continue this progression to the higher levels.
"I am mainly focused on the 2015 U20 World Cup team," Arriola concluded. "I feel like we are going to be a group of players who are extremely talented and loaded with a lot of experience. I think it is great that with the U18s, [head coach Javier Perez] has kept a core group of players together in order to build the chemistry of the team. I hope that in the next couple of years all of us continue to develop and grow as players in order to be a great US team that goes to the 2015 U20 World Cup."