Like most of the country grappling with our new pandemic-induced way of life, Paul Arriola doesn't get out much.
If there's optimism to be found as COVID-19 reshapes our world, Arriola names an obvious one. He's missed just two Black-and-Red games and zero USMNT ones so far, instead of the eight (and counting) for club and a pair of international friendlies had the schedule unfolded as planned. He was likely set to miss the entire MLS season and up to half of World Cup qualifying, but now could salvage the season.
“It’s like I’m gaining ground," Arriola told MLSsoccer.com. "I’m not missing any games, not even training."
Monday marked eight weeks from Arriola's surgery; he knew that milestone off the top of his head. He cautioned that while every body and every recovery is different, the prognosis is about nine months until he can return to the pitch. That would be Oct. 24, another date he knew off the top of his head.
“It’s been an interesting eight weeks, but we’re eight down and a few more to go," Arriola said. "The trainers shoot for nine months ... but obviously I’m shooting to be back before that.”
He understands the gravity of the injury, of course.
Arriola said he won't rush back just for the sake of rushing back, and feels as though he has "10-plus years left to play." He also wants to firmly be himself when he returns, the same explosive, persistent and tireless winger that's earned a key role for club and country.
“But all I want to do is play soccer," he admitted after waxing about the dangers of returning too soon.
Recovery has gone fine. Difficult, as one can imagine, but Arriola is working through it. He spoke at length with players who suffered the same injury about what to expect throughout this timeline, which helped most with the mental grind.
It's gone pretty smoothly thus far on the physical side as well, with only one minor setback. Arriola had some unwanted fluid build up in his knee after being at Audi Field for his club's season-opening match against the Colorado Rapids.
“That was my fault," Arriola quickly pointed out. "I wanted to sit out in the cold and watch my team play the first game against Colorado. I paid the price for that one.”
In the interim, whenever he's not working towards recovery, Arriola spends time on other interests. He's diving further into business, something his good friend and teammate Russell Canouse piqued his interest in. Arriola has also dabbled around the kitchen with his increased time at home.
“I’m cooking straight out of a cookbook, but hey, I figured I’m pretty good at following rules so if I can follow rules out of a cookbook, I can make something alright," Arriola quipped.
“I don't know how it's going to go, man, to be honest," Arriola said. "I thought I was alright, but I watched (Francisco) Calvo and (Kendall) Waston go at it Sunday and I was like ‘ooh these guys are really good.' The problem for me is there’s no scouting report! Diego Fagundez could be going at it eight hours a day, just saucing everybody up. Here I am, I don’t know what’s going to happen. There’s going to be some nerves in the beginning, but I’m definitely excited.”
It's possible that Arriola is underselling his ability. A bit of gamesmanship at play?
“Overall, I’m a pretty humble guy," he says. "It’s better to underplay yourself than overplay yourself, right?”