Paul Arriola’s Tijuana golazo could be the start of a big year for the USMNT man

BY Caitlin Murray • January 14, 2017

There are game-winning goals, and then there are game-winning golazos. Paul Arriola, the 21-year-old American, got the latter on Friday with a rocket to put Tijuana ahead of Puebla.

In the 61st minute, he settled a loose ball and then struck it off the bounce from the top of the box, putting Xolos up 3-2 en route to a final 6-2 score line.

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It was arguably Arriola’s best goal of his young career and it seems like the midfielder’s best days are firmly ahead of him. Last year, he went through the entire Apertura season without a single start, but he was a dynamic, exciting player off the bench. Now he is getting starts and 2017 could be a big year for him.

Arriola, a native of Chula Vista, California, got his first caps for the United States last year under Jurgen Klinsmann, scoring in each of his first two caps. He particularly showed well in a World Cup qualifier vs. Trinidad & Tobago, where he scored one of his goals.

But Arriola's road to the USMNT looks as murky as ever. While Klinsmann seemed to look at leagues beyond MLS for the sake of it, the arrival of new coach Bruce Arena gives a boost to the value of MLS players. That means Arriola now has a ton of domestic competition for a spot — competition that perhaps wasn’t there under Klinsmann.

Arena won’t be able to host a camp during a FIFA date until March, when World Cup qualifying resumes, so Arriola is a few months from a first chance to train under Arena. But if Arriola can continue scoring goals like the one he scored Friday night, it will certainly help his case.

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