CLEVELAND, Ohio.- Just three years ago, Paul Arriola was a hungry 21-year-old plying his trade in Liga MX with Club Tijuana. The native of San Diego was performing at a level that caught the eyes of the United States Men’s National Team.
Arriola had suited up for various U.S. youth teams, but in May 2016, he made his senior national team debut, netting a goal and picking up an assist in his first ever appearance.
Fast forward to 2019, and the now-D.C. United winger is a formidable presence on a 23-man U.S. 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup squad that has more debutants than players with prior tournament experience -- Arriola was a part of the 2017 U.S. team that lifted the Gold Cup at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California.
When asked about the contrast between then and now, from youngster to veteran, Arriola pointed to two words.
“It’s about hard work,” said Arriola in an exclusive interview with Concacaf.com. “From Tijuana to D.C. and with the national team, I think I’m finally aware of the player that I am, and I understand how to make it work with what I have to offer.”
From his youngest days, Arriola was well known for his pace and work-rate. At 5-feet 6-inches tall, he was often tested physically by opponents, and had to fine tune his game to find success.
“I might not be the most technically gifted or physical player,” Arriola said, “but anytime I go out there, let me tell you, I’m giving it all like it’s my last game.”
“I’m proud of the player I’ve become, and I’m happy to be called a veteran within this national team. Hopefully I can help in leading some of the younger guys to new heights here. It’s an honor.”