Orlando City added a striker on Wednesday when the club selected former Columbus Crew forward Jairo Arrieta with the sixth pick in the MLS Expansion Draft. While there should still be a fair amount of roster building between now and the opening game of 2015, Arrieta is technically the club’s first striker.
What are the strengths of Jairo's game?
Patrick Murphy: "Arrieta is a non-stop worker. Whether he starts a match or comes in during the second half, he will still be giving it 100 percent in the 90th minute. He is one of those players you can truly say leaves it all on the field.
"Arrieta is also a very selfless player. He wants what is best for the team, no matter what. In the second half of 2013, then-head coach Robert Warzycha asked him to play on the outside of a three-man attack. Although Arrieta was used to playing as the point man or as one of two strikers, he did so without complaint and did his best at the new position. During his three years with Columbus, his demeanor remained the same whether he was a starter, came off the bench, or was not in the 18-man game day roster."
What are his weaknesses?
PM: “Listed at 5-foot-8, Arrieta is certainly not the tallest striker in the world. While height isn’t required to make a difference at the position, it is nice to have some size to your forward when going up against some of the MLS’ best central defenders. Arrieta battles well for balls, but players such as Chad Marshall or Omar Gonzalez are always going to have an aerial advantage over him.
"Like many forwards, Arrieta is streaky. Crew SC fans saw the good and the bad of this during his tenure because when he gets in a rut, it is hard for him to get out. It’s not to say that he isn’t playing well, as he will contribute in other ways, but a forward’s job is to score goals and if he’s not doing that, sometimes you have to find someone who can."
How did the fans view him as a player? Favorite or…meh?
PM: “I think fans were really drawn towards Arrieta when he arrived in Columbus partway through 2012, and how could you not? The guy almost always has a smile on his face. He and Federico Higuain had a unique chemistry and he finished the season with nine goals in 18 games. Unfortunately, he was unable to return to that kind of scoring form and that became frustrating to supporters. I think if you polled fans of the Black and Gold, the majority would say they really wanted him to do well, it just wasn’t happening.”
Can he be a top striker or have we seen his ceiling in MLS?
PM: "That’s a tough question to answer. As I said above, he had a great start to his MLS career in 2012 but was unable to repeat that level on a consistent basis. Were those performances his ceiling? Perhaps, but it’s difficult to know. He is 31 years old, so he’s getting towards the end of his prime, but we’ve seen forwards older than him succeed in MLS.
"I think it will be interesting to see how Jairo responds to a change of scenery. Sometimes this can be the kick in the butt a player — specifically a forward — needs to get things back on track. I don’t know if he will be a top striker in MLS at this point in his career, but I could certainly see him returning to a solid starter who can contribute at the MLS level."
Any insight into his locker room behavior? Leader? Cancer? Somewhere in the middle?
PM: “From my experience dealing with Arrieta, he’s nothing but a class act. As I said above, he works hard for the team and wants to see the club succeed. Last season, when Crew SC signed Giancarlo Gonzalez and Waylon Francis — two fellow Costa Ricans — Arrieta helped them to get settled in Columbus and adjust to life in MLS. He always appeared to work well with others and his English has improved since coming to Columbus, which has helped him to become more of a leader on the field. I think you will like having him around the club. He’s an all around good guy.”
What's the most interesting thing about him?
PM: "As a player, I think his movement on the field is very underrated, probably up there with some of MLS’ more successful forwards. He understands how to get himself in good positions both in front of goal and elsewhere on the field. Although that doesn’t always lead to goals directly from Arrieta, he can open space for others that may result in opportunities."
So now you know a little more about Orlando City's new, diminutive striker. Arrieta certainly sounds like someone worthy of selection in the Expansion Draft. It will be interesting to track his career with the Lions.
Enjoy a few of his highlights below, and think about Arrieta getting on the end of a few Kaka through balls this season.