Five MLS matches are now under Paul Arriola's belt, a timeframe in which United have won three consecutive games for the time all season and played some of the best soccer all year. Fellow newcomer Zoltán Stieber has begun to settle in as well, notching back-to-back starts on either side of international duty with Hungary. As United’s new wide players continue to acclimate themselves, head coach Ben Olsen is not only excited about what he’s already seen, but also what's to come.
“Good soccer players find it easy to play with other good soccer players, that’s always been the case," he said. "Zoltán [Stieber] is gifted and the game comes easy to him. Guys like Lucho [Acosta] and Paul [Arriola] find it easy to play with guys of that caliber... but it takes a bit of time.”
While both Stieber and Arriola are most comfortable out wide, the two players' different styles each offer the Black-and-Red unique variations in the offensive third. For the Hungarian, who likes to connect passes, bring others into attack and combine with Luciano Acosta, it's all about build up play.
Arriola, on the hand, uses his pace to stretch defenses, keeping opposing back lines honest and not allow defenders any amount of ease, whether they're on the ball or not. Both players, though, have brought much-needed creativity high up the field; Stieber has created seven chances in his two games (only 147 minutes, to be exact), and Arriola has added 10 through his first five.
For reference, behind Acosta and Lloyd Sam, the team's first and second in chances created with 48 and 46, respectively, the next highest total is Taylor Kemp, with 20 from 22 matches. Stieber already is a third of the way there from two matches, while Arriola has averaged two a game. The benefit of having multiple chance creators in a side is twofold; not only are there simply more chances for goals, but it forces defenses to focus on more than one or two players, knowing that any number of offensive weapons can inflict damage.
Against Orlando, Arriola showcased his pace to perfection early in the first half. After racing to get on the hand of a Patrick Mullins through ball down the right hand side, the 22-year-old beat his man and returned the ball to Mullins, whose first-time shot was saved by Bendik. The combination play was a perfect example of the type of chance Arriola can create on the outside.
As the season's end inches closer, Stieber, Arriola, Acosta, Sam and others will continue to build chemistry both on and off the field, and United fans can expect to see more of the high tempo offensive play that the dangerous attackers bring to the table.