Paul Arriola returns to USMNT after World Cup snub


CARSON, Calif. — Earlier this month, Paul Arriola received word that an assistant with the US National Football Team wanted to talk to him about going to the annual winter training camp.

It’s been two months since Arriola was among Gregg Berhalter’s final cuts before the Americans traveled to Qatar for the World Cup – a decision he says has left him disappointed. “a little shaken” and cried in his car for an hour.

Wait for the conversation with BJ Callaghan. Arriola was getting married the next day.

However, the timing is right. His wedding with Akela Banuelos in an ocean view scene in Rancho Palos Verdes, California, marks the beginning of a new journey, and here the national team is offering a new beginning.

“There are so many situations we go through, we don’t have time to dictate how they go, do we?” Arriola said Tuesday. “I don’t have control over whether I will be in the team for the World Cup, but I have control over how I want to respond.

“As a single man now, I hope to have children one day. I want them to be able to look at their father and say that he lost his dreams and he chooses to respond by waking up and still wanting to be part of the program and continue playing.

Arriola accepted the invitation to this MLS-heavy camp, his first since the U.S. lost to the Netherlands in the round of 16 of the World Cup on Dec. 3. Colombia on Saturday in Carson – but only he knows the heartache of Berhalter’s World Cup decisions.

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Five came from Qatar, but none of the others received much attention last fall.

From the archives: Check out the USMNT World Cup roster

“The coaches told me that I’m very clear that if I don’t want to be in it and I don’t want to be a part of it, first of all, that’s the reaction of the players,” Arriola said. . “The last two weeks [before deciding], I got to the point where I admitted that I didn’t belong in the World Cup team. And I don’t want to let that hold me back.

Arriola said he might have had a different opinion if Berhalter had asked. Berhalter’s contract expires on December 31. On top of that, while the US Soccer Federation continues to evaluate his – and the club’s – performance over his four-year tenure and whether to offer a new contract, Berhalter is being investigated for kicking. to his future wife. 1991.

Berhalter’s family with striker Gio Reyna added a second layer to the uncertainty of the project’s direction.

“It’s really hard for me to think about coming back if Gregg is the one calling me,” Arriola said. Because of the relationships he’s built with the entire staff and players over the years, he added, “there’s less doubt, really.”

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Arriola explained when Berhalter told him he didn’t make the World Cup squad. Five days before the list of 26 people was announced, a local group completed a camp in Frisco, Tex. It’s Saturday. The players, Arriola said, were told to study their roster on Sunday.

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From the camp, Arriola was the only serious player cut – the rest with European teams – so Berhalter decided to tell Arriola in person a day earlier.

Arriola doesn’t expect to hear it one way or the other. He was hurt. He said he told Berhalter: “I respect you as a teacher. I respect you as a person, and I respect your decision. I don’t agree with your decision. I think it’s it is mistaken.

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Arriola seems to have lost out on Jordan Morris, a Seattle Sounders forward who has made the last two World Cup appearances.

Arriola watched the match with family in California, then began planning for his wedding and the start of the MLS preseason. All the while, he says, he can’t help but think about his next national team.

Two factors played into his decision to continue, Arriola said. Another is an article in Athletic where Sacha Kljestan describes his career as “10 times better” after missing out on the 2014 US World Cup team. Kljestan returned to the team and scored twice in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers last fall to cap a 17-year pro career.

The second source of power comes from her mother-in-law’s doctor. At one point, the doctor asked if Arriola would continue to play for the national team. He said he didn’t know.

He shared what the doctor told his son-in-law: “He must continue. He has to do it for you, for all the people who love him and support him and think he deserves the World Cup. He couldn’t let this break him.

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Arriola is in regular contact with one of his closest friends, DC United’s Russell Canouse.

“He was very sad and angry and having a hard time working,” Canouse said. “The fact that he’s in camp right now shows what he’s like and who he is.”

The current staff turned to Arriola – as well as World Cup players Walker Zimmerman, Sean Johnson, Jesús Ferreira and Kellyn Acosta – to provide leadership to a team featuring 12-year-old 23-year-old players. and below. On this list, Arriola’s 48 caps is second to Acosta’s 55 and his 10 goals are the most.

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Unlike the five World Cup players who live here, “It’s kind of difficult [for Arriola] because I can’t imagine why he didn’t go to the World Cup for a long time with us,” said Anthony Hudson, a World Cup assistant stationed on this camp. “It was we asked if he liked it or how he felt, but his answer was as you would expect from a good man and a good character.”

Arriola, who turns 28 on Feb. The World Cup is 3½ years away.

“I understand that this is a transition period between World Cups,” he said. “For me, it’s more important to live in the moment, it’s to say to myself and the people around me and play for them – just enjoy this experience now.”


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