OBETZ, Ohio – Jairo Arrieta, his wife and young daughter moved into their suburban Columbus home on Tuesday, and soon, the parents will begin English classes to better acclimate to their new surroundings.
But it’s how quickly the Costa Rican forward adapts to MLS that has piqued the curiosity of his new Crew teammates and fans alike.
With the offense struggling to barely score a goal a game, Arrieta was signed in late April and became eligible on June 27 when the international transfer window opened. He did not play three days later against Real Salt Lake nor Sunday at Montreal, but is expected to be in uniform for the first time on Saturday against Sporting Kansas City as he works himself into shape.
“I don’t know whether he’ll be fit enough to play, but he’s definitely going to be available and hopefully he’s going to see some minutes,” Columbus head coach Robert Warzycha said on Wednesday.
The 28-year-old Arrieta brings a healthy résumé from Deportivo Saprissa, accumulating 45 goals in 161 appearances while helping them win five Costa Rican first-division championships.
“He adds a little bit of creativity up top that I think sometimes we’re missing,” Crew midfielder Eddie Gaven said. “He’s very quick on the ball, very shifty. He can get a shot off in pretty much a yard of space.”
Leaving the comfort of his country and the team he grew up idolizing was not easy for Arrieta.
“The opportunity was huge,” he said through a translator. “I always dreamed of playing for Saprissa, but when the Crew opportunity arose, I always wanted to play for a team in a foreign country. After asking several people, [Columbus] was a good choice but, yes, it was a hard decision for me."
One of the people Arrieta sought advice from was former Saprissa teammate Olman Vargas, who joined the Crew in January.
“He’s a great guy, a great person,” Vargas said. “As a player, he works hard. He’s always thinking about the team and trying to help the team win in any way he can.”
Ironically, Arrieta’s arrival could push his fellow Tico further down the depth chart at forward. Vargas’ only goal came in Columbus' second game of the season on March 24 and he has had trouble getting on the field since returning from a hamstring injury that cost him two games in early May.
Vargas has played nine matches with seven starts but did not make the 18-man travel squad to Montreal.
“He needs to play better,” Warzycha said simply.
If Vargas is frustrated he’s not letting on publicly, “I’m going to agree with whatever decision the coaching staff makes and be ready whenever I’m needed.”
So is Arrieta, now that he is no longer staying in a hotel.
“It’s better because I can be in a family environment,” he said. “We can eat home meals. My wife is a good cook. We can live the way we did before and be more relaxed. It will help with the adaptation.”