Mexico City? Dallas? Charlotte? Or back to D.C.?
It’s still unclear where Paul Arriola will call home in 2022, with trade and transfer rumors swirling around the 26-year-old winger. On Wednesday he confessed that he isn’t in full control of the situation, leaving him to focus on what’s before him as he and the rest of the US men’s national team's domestic-based contingent complete their January camp in Phoenix, Ariz.
“This is the most important year of my career and I'm, like most players, always looking for the best opportunity and situation to be the most successful,” Arriola told reporters in an online media availability. “I still have a great relationship with D.C. I'm still currently a D.C. United player. So if things were to move on, then obviously it'll be mutual. And if not, I'll be at training camp as soon as [USMNT] camp is over and ready to roll.”
MLSsoccer.com’s Tom Bogert has reported on many of the twists and turns in the chase for Arriola, who has proved a sought-after commodity both within MLS and beyond with FC Dallas, Charlotte FC and Mexican giants Club América leading the pack.
The most recent news suggests that FCD – whose new coach Nico Estevez worked with Arriola as a USMNT assistant – have gained pole position, though as of this writing nothing is yet official. In the meantime, the player himself must maintain his place in the core of Gregg Berhalter’s squad ahead of the final countdown to the United States’ massive trio of World Cup qualifiers at month’s end, despite the challenge of maintaining peak fitness through the MLS offseason.
“Look, it's obviously a complicated one,” said Arriola. “The best thing that people have done for me is given their advice. No one has put pressure on me to do one thing or the other, which is the beauty of it all. Obviously, I can only control so much and the clubs can control as much as they can as well.
“So there's a lot of people that have been given me advice, but really, I've just kind of been taking it all in and trying to stay as focused as possible on camp. That's clearly my number-one job right now, is to be focused here, stay fit, continue to gain confidence on the field and be ready for the games coming up.”
Arriving in D.C. in the summer of 2017 as a Designated Player and club-record transfer signing who cost north of $3 million to acquire from Liga MX's Club Tijuana, Arriola has been the face of the club for most of his time with the Black-and-Red. His 20 goals and 16 assists in 89 league appearances are decent numbers but they’re only one measure of his importance to the capital club in terms of leadership, work rate and commitment on and off the field.
His departure would make him the latest of several regular starters to leave Washington this winter, with only a few new inbound signings in return so far, heightening the importance of brokering the best possible terms for any deal for Hernan Losada’s side.
It’s too early to tell for certain whether the current storm of transfer interest has arisen at Arriola’s behest or United’s, but the hard-running Mexican-American sounds determined to make the most of a year which he hopes is capped by a prominent role for the USMNT at the World Cup in Qatar.
“I don't have anything concrete about my future. Obviously not everything is my decision, if I want to go to América or not,” Arriola said in Spanish on Wednesday. “I want to go to a place that helps me get to the World Cup, to be successful. I can't control everything.
"I know that the clubs are talking, but the opportunity is complicated by the club's decision and I respect it. I understand that this is all a business.”