After Tuesday’s training session, Crew coach Robert Warzycha handed striker Jairo (pronounced “hy-ro”) Arrieta a bottle of Moet Champagne. The reason? Arrieta has been popping off since finally suiting up for Columbus earlier this month.
A native of Costa Rica, Arrieta had never played professionally outside his country until the Crew came calling. He was familiar with the club, having visited as a member of Costa Rican club Saprissa for a CONCACAF Champions League match.
“It was a good opportunity for me to leave Saprissa and play outside my country,” Arrieta said through a translator.
Due to FIFA’s international transfer window, Crew fans had to wait more than two months to see Arrieta on the pitch after the club announced his signing April 26. All Columbus residents had to go on were YouTube highlights of Arrieta lighting it up for Saprissa.
Now that he’s finally wearing yellow, Arrieta is proving he was worth the wait. After debuting in the Crew’s 2-0 home loss to Sporting KC on July 14, Arrieta logged his first point by assisting Chris Birchall’s game-winner in a 1-0 victory over D.C. United. Then the fireworks really got going when he logged his first two MLS goals as the Crew paid back KC with a road win of their own.
Arrieta’s first goal, a rumbling trap-and-bash off a feed from Josh Williams, sent him into a flurry of fist pumps worthy of Pauly D. Arrieta said his first goal for the Crew was special, but every score leaves him elated.
“It’s really hard to explain with words the feeling of scoring a goal,” Arrieta said.
He followed that with a remarkable strike. After intercepting Graham Zusi’s pass, Arrieta turned and fired from way outside the penalty box. The performance was enough to earn Arrieta MLS Player of the Week honors.
He’s adjusting from Costa Rica’s possession-oriented game to the faster, stronger MLS. But the move to Ohio has been barely an adjustment at all. He is impressed with Crew Stadium and the team’s Obetz training facility, and like many Latin American players before him, he appreciates the tranquility and relative anonymity of life in Columbus.
“The fact that it’s calm here is important,” he said.
Maybe so off the field, but Arrieta is making sure the action around the goalmouth is anything but peaceful — just what the ailing Crew offense ordered.
Dispatch file photo by Kyle Robertson