Liga MX, Week 6: Recapping Club Tijuana and acknowledging Paul Arriola
A 2-1 defeat to Monterrey on Saturday night could have been worse for Club Tijuana, but 18 year old American Paul Arriola managed to get one on the board for Xolos in the final minutes of play, saving his team from becoming the victims of a shutout on the road - the second time he's contributed to prevention of a shutout after coming on as a substitute. If you follow the Tijuana club closely enough, you'll notice that Arriola seems to make things happen in every game he has played since his debut in July, and that impact came to a head last night with his late minute equalizer. It was also Arriola's first professional goal in the 2013 apertura for Xolos.
Monterrey 2-1 Tijuana
Arriola scored Tijuana's first and only goal, leveling things with the hosts only three minutes after replacing Joe Corona in the 85th minute. Javier Güemez played a pass through, and Arriola was there to sink a right footed shot from the center of the box to the bottom right corner off an assist from Edgar Castillo. Monterrey's first goal came 10 minutes prior, when Omar Arellano played a through ball to Neri Cardozo for the finish.
Monterrey would get their second on the board only a minute after Arriola's equalizer, when a cross from César Delgado met Humberto Sauza, who burried a header past Cirilo Saucedo to score the final goal of the game. Despite the loss, Tijuana prevented a shutout courtsey of their 18 year old impact sub who will undoubedtly have many more opportunities to shine for his new club, just over the border from his hometown.
A San Diego native, Arriola played for club teams Chula Vista Rangers and Arsenal in his younger years. The decision to play for Tijuana came after spending time with LA Galaxy's academy and their first team in the Spring of this year, when the opportunity to head across the border became the path in which he ultimately ended up traveling, bypassing the chance to also play collegiately for UCLA.
Recently becoming yet another American to join the Xolos, he notes fellow Club Tijuana and former US U-17 teammates Steve Rodriguez and Alejandro Guido had some influence in his decision when the Mexican club would come up in conversation between friends. And as if playing with US national team and Xolos first teammates Joe Corona, Castillo, and Greg Garza wasn't familiar enough, fellow American Herculez Gomez, who recently transferred to Xolos from Santos Laguna, played a role in Arriola's earlier years as a trainer for one of his club teams.
Relationships and location aside, some would say that a move to the Mexican league, and particularly Club Tijuana, has suited him well in many areas, and especially as an athlete.
Arriola has been a playmaker since first stepping on the pitch for Xolos on July 6 - his debut for the club in a friendly against Liga MX Champions Club América, where he scored a goal after coming on as a sub in the 54th minute. Granted, the game was a friendly, and provided no value on the regular season standings, but that's not really the point. A lot can be said for a player who makes an immediate impact everytime he comes into play - something Arriola has done since that game in San Diego at Petco Park.
In total, Arriola has played in three Liga MX regular season games, tallying a total of 63 minutes on the season with one goal and two assists. And it's not simply the ratio of games played to goals or assists that impresses (though it IS impressive), it's the time frame in which the impact is made. It's almost immediate; the most being within three minutes.
His true professional debut came on July 19, in the 2013 apertura season opener at Estadio Caliente against Atlas, where he nabbed an assist only three minutes after coming on as a sub. The play would prove to be valuable not only for Darío Benedetto, who completed a hat trick with Arriola's pass, but it was also Tijuana's third and final goal to eventually end up salvaging a point before the visitors came back to score enough to tie the game at 3-3.
In an August 3 game in Tijuana's 2-1 loss to Morelia, he came on as a sub for Castillo in the 65th minute, and set up the Xolos' only goal just seconds later when he crossed a ball from the corner to Fidel Martinez who burried it past Morelia 'keeper Federico Vilar while the clock was still at 65.
His first professional start came in Xolos' CONCACAF Champions League debut on August 6 against Luis Angel Firpo in El Salvador, where he had one of Tijuana's few shots on target in the 38th minute. His powerful attempt forced a diving save by goalkeeper Dagoberto Portillo, who had just come off Gold Cup duty with El Salvador's national team. Only 10 minutes later, he almost got a head on a loose ball at the mouth of goal, but that one was also denied by Portillo.
Last night's performance marks four successive games in which he's made an appearance as a substitute, with either a goal or an assist immediately to follow. He's played in five total. A recap:
- A goal against Club America after subbing on in the 54th minute.
- A game with an eventual point-salvaging assist in the season opener against Atlas. (Came on as a sub in the 61st, assisted in Benedetto's goal scored in the 64th minute)
- An assist to Martinez within seconds of subbing on, preventing a shutout by Morelia. (65th minute sub/goal)
- A Champions League debut in which he started, contributing two close chances at goal
- A lone goal three minutes after subbing on for Corona, preventing a shutout in last night's 2-1 loss to Monterrey. (Came on in 85th, scored in 88th)
After last night's game, Arriola took to his Twitter to share sentiments about his first regular season career goal with his team. "A night I will never forget. Scored my official first professional goal. Hard work pays off and never stop dreaming. Thank you everyone!"
The club is now in Honduras for another CONCACAF Champions League match, set to take place on August 20 against C.D. Victoria. They return home to Estadio Caliente to take on Santos Laguna on August 23.
Now that we're all a little more familiar with his contributions in such a short window, I encourage readers to follow him and Club Tijuana for the remainder of the season as they compete in CONCACAF Champions League for the first time in history, and look to climb the Liga MX table for a repeat of last season's success.