The story of Paul Arriola might be a disappointing one for the LA Galaxy, but it’s certainly nothing new.
The 17-year-old San Diego native announced via Twitter on Thursday night that he’s chosen to forego a contract offer with the LA Galaxy to play for rising Mexican powers Club Tijuana, marking the third time in the past year the acclaimed Galaxy youth system has a lost a player to an international club.
It's official! I signed my first professional contract with Club Tijuana Xolos @xolosoficial! Thank you God! Dreams come true!— Paul Arriola (@PaulArriola) May 3, 2013
The youngster's signing was confirmed to MLSsoccer.com on Friday by his agent, Chris Megaloudis.
“It’s a little disappointing,” Galaxy technical director Jovan Kirovski told MLSsoccer.com by phone on Friday. “He went through our system, we offered him a contract and he decided to move on and go somewhere else. But that’s going to happen. It’s something that has happened before, and it’s something that will happen again.”
Two other players have jumped ship on the Galaxy in the past: Mario Rodriguez joined German second-division side FC Kaiserslautern last July, and Jeffrey Payeras signed with Guatemalan giants Municipal in January.
Arriola, who has been a regular in the U.S. Soccer youth system from the Under-14 to Under-17 ranks, trained with Tijuana last December before returning to the states. He hails from the San Diego suburb of Chula Vista, just north of the Mexican border and only 18 miles from Tijuana.
Kirovski said that Arriola’s proximity to Tijuana likely influenced his decision, but argued the idea that Tijuana will provide a better opportunity than the one presented with the Galaxy.
“In terms of playing and soccer-wise, I’m not sure it’s the best place for him,” Kirovski said. “Everybody has their own opinion and own ideas, but we feel that we have a program that is set up for him to develop that would be better for him. But that’s up to him, and he decided to go down there.”
Kirovski said Arriola's decision did not come as a surprise, and that the club was aware Tijuana had extended a competitive offer.
"We'd heard through different people here and there," Kirovski said. "It wasn't a surprise, and we'd heard rumors. It didn't come out of nowhere."
Kirovski said the biggest challenge for the Galaxy in keeping players like Arriola is the team’s roster size, which often times deters the team from signing a young player who will take up a valuable roster spot but inevitably sit the bench.
As long as the player is not signed to a contract, a team like Tijuana can very easily make an offer, and the Galaxy are left to rue what might have been.
Tijuana’s recent success is at least partly built on the rise of American players like Edgar Castillo, Greg Garza and Joe Corona. While Castillo and Garza hail from New Mexico and Texas, respectively, Corona is a Los Angeles product who attended San Diego State.
Additional reporting by Tom Marshall.