With Goals in First Two Games, Arriola Joins Rare Company

Twenty-one-year-old MNT forward Paul Arriola wasn’t sure if he would get into Tuesday night’s World Cup qualifier against Trinidad & Tobago. Taking part in just his second senior team camp, part of him was just happy to be included in the team’s final set of Semifinal Round matches.

Still, as one of the bright prospects of the MNT setup, Arriola had shown well in his debut for the USA, setting up a goal from Bobby Wood before hitting the back of the net himself to cap the scoring in a 3-1 friendly win on May 22 in Puerto Rico.

That game was part of the warmup for the 2016 Copa America Centenario, and marked the first time Arriola had been called in since the change to the new U.S. Soccer crest. With the team having worn their white kits against Puerto Rico, there was a necessity to take headshots of a number of players – including Arriola - wearing the black kit. One by one, players came in to have their picture taken by team photographer John Dorton, which also included a few scripted poses. As he has before with Timmy Chandler, Dorton prompted Arriola in particular to imagine the moment when he put the ball in the back of the net.

“Do it like you will when you score in the game tomorrow,” he said.

Arriola jumped up in the air with one arm and pumped his fist in the air, and that was that for the photo session.

Fast forward to the 66th minute on Tuesday night. The U.S. was already leading 3-0 when MNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann inserts Arriola for Alejandro Bedoya. Just five minutes in to his World Cup Qualifying debut, the 21-year-old attacker scored his second goal in as many matches for the MNT, pouncing on the end of a beautiful buildup that saw Christian Pulisic’s shot saved before he slammed it past T&T goalkeeper Marvin Phillip.

“I didn’t have time to do my completely normal celebration,” said Arriola. “Usually I run to the sideline, jump up in the air and do a fist pump. Instead I saw Christian [Pulisic] right there and jumped right on him. After that I put both my hands up in the air, celebrated and then came the single fist pump.”

Beyond matching his celebration from the night before, the goal put Arriola in some rare company as he became just the ninth MNT player all-time to score in each of his first two appearances. The Club Tijuana attacker is the first to do it since Eddie Johnson achieved the feat in the fall of 2004.

“I had no idea,” Arriola told ussoccer.com by phone on Thursday. “That’s definitely awesome, but when I do it, it’s not like I’m thinking I’m here to make history. I’m just trying to help the team. I feel confident in myself, in the system and players and coaches we have with the National Team. As a kid you always dream of being on the full national team. It was barely over a year ago that I was at the U-20 World Cup and had Landon [Donovan] there helping us out. We all still felt like we were so far away from the National Team, thinking our time would come soon and we couldn’t realize it. For me, here it is.”

Goals in First Two MNT Caps

Player

First Cap, First Goal

Second Cap, Second Goal

Charles Ellis

3-2 W at Sweden (Aug. 20, 1916)

1-1 D at Norway (Sept. 3, 1916)

Rudolf Kuntner

2-11 L vs. Argentina (May 30, 1928)+

3-3 D at Poland (June 10, 1928)

Bert Patenaude

3-0 W vs. Belgium (July 13, 1930)**

3-0 W vs. Paraguay (July 17, 1930)**

Aldo Donelli

4-2 W vs. Mexico (May 24, 1934)*

1-7 L at Italy (May 27, 1934)**

John McEwan

2-7 L at Mexico (Sept. 12, 1937)

3-7 L at Mexico (Sept. 19, 1937)

Alexander Rae

2-7 L at Mexico (Sept. 12, 1937)

3-7 L at Mexico (Sept. 19, 1937)

Dante Washington

2-2 D vs. Mexico (March 12, 1991)

2-0 W vs. Canada (March 16, 1991)

Eddie Johnson

2-0 W at El Salvador (Oct. 9, 2004)*

6-0 W vs. Panama (Oct. 13, 2004)*

Paul Arriola

3-1 W at Puerto Rico (May 22, 2016)

4-0 W vs. Trinidad & Tobago (Sept. 6, 2016)*

+ Denotes Olympic matches, * Denotes World Cup Qualifying matches, ** Denotes World Cup matches

Only two players in MNT history have extended their streak further. In 1937, Alexander Rae scored in each of his first three appearances. Johnson holds the all-time record, having recorded goals in his first four games for the National Team.

Arriola isn’t thinking about any of that, however. Should he get called back in, Arriola said he and some of the team’s other young players are hoping to use the October friendlies as another audition for playing time in the final round of World Cup Qualifying which begins with a home match on Nov. 11 against Mexico and away four days later to Costa Rica.

“We have to continue to push, whether that means we’re taking veteran spots or helping them become better players,” he said. “That’s a role that all of us young players have to take into account, and for me I think it’s a good time to be a part of the National Team. We’re in a transitional phase going into the Hex now where the games are really important. Any minutes we can get on the field or even a call up that makes us part of the environment helps us grow and is important for our development.”