Even so, there were more than enough lucrative aspects of a move to the nation’s capital to make the Black-and-Red the most appealing destination for US national team and former Club Tijuana wide man Paul Arriola.
“I had to look at all my goals, right?” Arriola said at a press conference hours after he became the last and most expensive piece of United’s furious summer transfer spree. “My short term, my medium term and my long term. When I looked at that, I think the plan that D.C. had for me, in talking with [GM Dave Kasper] specifically, it is what I was looking for. I think that makes it easy.”
The 22-year-old, who has made 11 appearances for the US, including four to help them win the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup, is the last of four signings made by the Black-and-Red, which paid a club-record transfer fee to Club Tijuana that is reportedly north of $3 million.
Arriola joins former US U-20 teammate Russell Canouse, Hungarian international Zoltan Stieber and Bolivian teenager Bruno Miranda. That cohort averages about 23 and joins a team whose four most important pieces are 26 or younger: playmaker Luciano Acosta, striker Patrick Mullins, center back Steve Birnbaum and goalkeeper Bill Hamid.
D.C.’s youth movement, combined with a track record of four playoff appearances in five years and ownership’s patience with Kasper and coach Ben Olsen, sold Arriola.
“I come from a place in Mexico where each season, it’s like, if it’s five games that you lose, the coach is out and everyone is freaking out about being relegated,” Arriola said. “Here, no one I don’t think should feel the pressure, especially with the new players that we have.”
In previous seasons United more often targeted older and more known MLS commodities. Now, as D.C. attempt to salvage the remainder of this season and build momentum for next year’s move to Audi Field, Kasper says the apparent course change is a reflection on the impact of General Allocation Money and Targeted Allocation Money.
“I don’t think it’s as much about feeling that we have to change as about, thanks to our friends GAM and TAM, you can be more strategic, maybe a little more longer term with your investment,” Kasper said.
That figure has drawn arguably more attention than the reported transfer fee, though Kasper sees it as the new normal.
“The days of floating second round picks … those days are gone, especially when you’re going after a prized asset like Paul,” Kasper said. “We were determined to get this deal done. We certainly know what the market value of these assets are in this league. So you pay, and move on. We were happy to pay, because we knew we were going to get Paul.”