The LA Galaxy U-18 squad lost a key member yesterday, as Paul Arriola signed with Club Tijuana Xolos. Arriola had signed a letter of intent at UCLA, but made it clear publicly that he'd rather pursue a professional soccer career. LA wasn't forthcoming with a contract, but Tijuana was where he'll join former US U-17 teammates Alejandro Guido and Steve Rodriguez.
It's official! I signed my first professional contract with Club Tijuana Xolos @xolosoficial! Thank you God! Dreams come true!— Paul Arriola (@PaulArriola) May 3, 2013
Arriola started three of four matches for the US U-17 side in the 2011 World Cup in Mexico. Returning from that World Cup, Arriola scored 15 goals in 17 matches for Arsenal FC in the 2011-12 Development Academy season before switching to the LA Galaxy's Academy. In his year with the Galaxy Academy, Arriola has scored five goals in eleven matches.
The LA Galaxy U-18 team is ranked fifth in the country by Top Drawer Soccer, up from eleventh in April. They're behind only the New York Red Bulls academy (which produced Juan Agudelo) and Real Salt Lake's Arizona side. They're on a six match win streak with wins over Pateadores and the San Jose Earthquakes side.
In Top Drawer Soccer's regional rankings Jack McBean is still the top rated prospect out there. Paul Arriola is number three, no. 8 in the IMG Academy 150 (McBean is no. 3). The Galaxy U-18's occupy seven of the ten spots on the regional rankings. That's not counting Raul Mendiola who is rated at five stars but doesn't appear on the regional list, Oscar Sorto, or Jose Villarreal.
Hopefully that contract for Raul Mendiola really is coming, as it would be a shame to lose him as well. As is, the Galaxy have two roster spots open with Mendiola, Arriola, and a potential third DP contract all on the table. We don't know what deals were attempted, and certainly the team isn't happy about losing Arriola to Tijuana.
Part of the reality of having these top players join the Academy (presumably as a preliminary step to an eventual contract) is that if there isn't room there are clubs like Tijuana who are looking for that kind of talent. There's a debate to be had on Academy Players vs. underperforming draft picks, but that's another debate for another day.
Adam Serrano sat down with Galaxy Technical Director Jovan Kirovski, and I'm adding the link cause in it Kirovski says that the Galaxy did offer him a contract. Most homegrown contracts are the league minimum ($35,125) and teams only get two exemptions (to offer Generation adidas style contracts). The Galaxy have used these on Jack McBean and Gyasi Zardes, respectively.