Paul Arriola returns to USMNT after World Cup snub

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CARSON, Calif. – Earlier this month, Paul Arielo received word that an assistant on the US Women’s Soccer team wanted to talk to him about coming to the annual winter training camp.

Two months have passed since Arriola was among Gregg Berhalter’s last roster cuts before the Americans ventured to Qatar for the World Cup – a decision he said left him “a little shocked” and cried in his car for an hour.

The conversation with BJ Callaghan would have to wait. Arriola got married the next day.

The timing, however, was apt. His marriage to Akela Banuelos in an ocean-view vista in Rancho Palos Verdes, California, would be the beginning of a new journey, and now the national team offers a fresh start.

“A lot of situations that we go through, we don’t have the opportunity to dictate how they go, right?” Arriola said Tuesday. “I had no control over whether I would be in the squad for the World Cup, but I had control over how I wanted to respond.

“As a married man now, when I hope one day to have children. I want them to be able to look at their father and say that he literally had the failure of his dreams and he chose to respond by getting up and still being ready to Be part of the program and keep playing.”

Arriola accepted the invitation to the MLS-heavy camp, the first since the United States lost to the Netherlands in the World Cup’s round of 3 on Dec. 3. He is among 24 players preparing for Wednesday’s friendly against Serbia in Los Angeles and Colombia on Saturday in Carson – but the only one who survived the heartbreak of the Berhalter World Cup decisions.

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Five attendees here were in Qatar, but none of the others were under serious consideration last fall.

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“The coaches told me that they completely understand if I don’t want to come in and don’t want to be a part of it, which at first, that’s the reaction of every player,” Arriola said. “The last couple of weeks [before deciding], I was to the point where I accepted that I did not make the World Cup team. And I don’t want to let that hold me back.”

Arriola, however, said he may have felt differently, Berhalter asked. Berhalter’s contract expired on December 31. Furthermore, while the US 1991.

Berhalter’s split with the family of forward Gio Reyna added a second unexpected layer to the uncertainty of the program’s direction.

“It would have been even harder for me to think about coming back if it was Gregg who called me,” Arriola said. Because of the relationships he built with the staff as a whole and the players over the years, he added, “there was certainly less hesitation.”

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Arriola described the moment Berhalter told him he had not made the World Cup squad. Five days before the 26-man roster would be announced, a domestic-based team had just finished camp in Frisco, Tex. It was a Saturday. The players, Arriola said, were told they would learn their fate on Sunday.

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From the domestic camp, Arriola was the only serious contender who was cut – the rest were with European clubs – so Berhalter decided to tell Arriola in person a day before.

Arriola didn’t expect to hear one way or the other. He was good. He said he told Berhalter: “I respect you as a coach. I respect you as a person, and I also respect your decision. I do not agree with your decision. I think it’s a mistake.”

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Arriola appeared to have lost out to Jordan Morris, a Seattle Sounders forward who made two late-game appearances at the World Cup.

Arriola watched the tournament with his family in California, then began planning for his wedding and the start of the MLS preseason. All along, he said, he couldn’t help but think about his national team future.

Two things impacted his decision to continue, Arriola said. One was an article in The Athletic in which midfielder Sacha Kljestan described his career as “10 times better” after missing out on the 2014 US Open. it. World Cup Team. Kljestan returned to the team and scored twice in 2018 World Cup qualifiers and last fall capped a 17-year pro career.

The second influential element came from his mother-in-law. During an appointment, the doctor asked if Arriola would continue to play for the national team. She said she didn’t know.

She relayed the doctor’s message to her son-in-law: “He just has to keep going. He has to do it for her, for everyone who loves him and supports him and who thinks he should have been in the World Cup. He can’t let that happen.” Break him down.”

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Arriola also spoke regularly with one of his closest friends, DC United’s Russell Canouse.

“He was deeply saddened and frustrated and just having a hard time coping,” Canouse said. “The fact that he is in the camp now shows his personality and character.”

The current staff turned to Arriola – and World Cup players Walker Zimmerman, Sean Johnson, Jesús Ferreira and Kellyn Acosta – to provide guidance to a group of 12 players aged 23 and under. On that list, Arriola’s 48 caps are second to Acosta’s 55 and his 10 goals are the most.

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Unlike for the five World Cup players who are here, “it is a tricky scenario [for Arriola] Because I can’t imagine what he went through by not going to the World Cup, because I was with us for such a long time,” said Anthony Hudson, a World Cup assistant placed in charge of the camp. “We asked whether He would or whatever he felt, but his response was as you would expect from such a good man and a good character.”

Arriola, who turns 28 on February 5, acknowledges that he may not have a long-term future with the American squad. The next World Cup is 3½ years away.

“I understand it’s a transitional period between World Cups,” he said. “For me, it was more about living in the moment, because it’s a statement to myself and the people around me and playing for them – just enjoying this experience right now.”



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