Breaking News
More () »

Meet Paul Arriola, FC Dallas winger fighting for a spot on USMNT for 2022 World Cup

"When you go out there, it's go time and it's not just playing with your friends. It's playing with your brothers and you're representing your country."

FRISCO, Texas — It's the world's most watched sporting event: the World Cup.

When the U.S. Men's National Team opens up group play against Wales in late November, there's a chance we'll all be cheering on Paul Arriola. 

Arriola came to FC Dallas in January before the 2022 MLS season, and he's been shining for the USMNT over the past few years.

"To be a part of the national team, you have to be informed," Arriola told WFAA. "You have to be a player that can really impact the game."

Arriola was one of eight players with FC Dallas ties selected to the USMNT for World Cup qualifiers and warm-up friendlies. He scored two goals in a single match against Trinidad and Tobago in 2021, followed by another two goals in six appearances in 2022. 

"When you go out there, it's go time and it's not just playing with your friends," Arriola said. "It's playing with your brothers and you're representing your country."

Arriola's potential to be on the 26-man World Cup roster is not cemented, though, and he understands that.

"Everyone can really taste it, and again, the job isn't done. My spot isn't concrete, and I'm very aware of that," Arriola told WFAA.

On Nov. 9, we'll find out if Arriola has been named to the 26-man roster when U.S. Soccer announces the World Cup squad in New York.

Meanwhile, the winger from Chula Vista, Calif., draws support from both work and at home. Arriola recently got married to his wife, Akela, in May. The couple is holding their wedding ceremony in January 2023, Arriola told WFAA.

"She's my rock," Arriola said. "She's kind of the person that supports me, taking care of everything off the field for me. [She's] been the person that supported me that I can always go to. Obviously, I find a lot of comfort in her."

Finding comfort is essential when the pressure's building. If Arriola makes the team, he'll be ready.

"First, you have to get out of the group. Then, it's game by game," he told WFAA. "Anything can happen. You just have to be better than the team that you're facing on that day."

Performances at the World Cup will forever shape how players are remembered. And one thing that the USMNT has going for it: Depth.

"We have that next man up mentality," Arriola said. "If a guy goes down... if he's sick... if he's injured... if something happens to them, we have total confidence in anyone that's on the roster to be able to step up and perform." 

Another talking point about the USMNT World Cup roster this fall: the squad's youth. The U.S. was the youngest team to qualify for Qatar at an average age of 24.07, more than a year-and-a-half younger than the next closest team. 

Arriola said what the team lacks in experience, they make up for in youthfulness and energy. He does exude some senior citizen tendencies in his pre-match preparation, however.

"What do you do going into the game?" WFAA's Cynthia Izaguirre asked. 

"Just take a nap. That's the only thing I need is to take a nap," Arriola responded. 

Spoken like a true pro.

More World Cup coverage: 


Before You Leave, Check This Out