In sports, sometimes the best addition a team can make is the return of its own from injury. For the Black & Gold, that's certainly the case with forward Jairo Arrieta, who has been working his way back to full fitness after suffering a hamstring injury on July 12 against New York. While the Crew strike corps has been well-manned through Adam Bedell and Aaron Schoenfeld, a return by Arrieta would give Columbus additional depth and options up top.
The Costa Rican has not started a match since his injury at Red Bull Arena. While he did make a cameo appearance off the bench against Toronto FC, he remained out of the 18 against Houston for reasons that Gregg Berhalter described as tactical, given an illness to Tony Tchani and the need for precautionary midfield depth. Still, the veteran striker emphasized just how hard he has been working to regain full fitness and contribute for his club.
"I feel good. I’m always working hard," said Arrieta, through a translator. "You guys get to see me on the pitch and at the training facility. I’m always working hard and that’s my main goal, to be in the 18 and be in the starting lineup … The game of soccer is always changing and evolving, but I’m grateful. I’m working hard to be in the 18 and the 11, and that’s just part of my nature."
The biggest reason why Arrieta's return could be so impactful is because he profiles as a different type of striker than Bedell and Schoenfeld. Smaller and quicker, Arrieta's style is unlike any other forward currently available to the Black & Gold. That could create match-up difficulties for opponents no matter how Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter elects to utilize the strike trio.
"They have different qualities. They’re different strikers," said Berhalter. "Jairo’s closer to the ground, a little bit quicker and is an extremely hard worker. We like the complement of the three. It’s a group that right now, we’ve been going with the height, but that’s certainly not to say it’s how it’s going to be."
Arrieta is aware of that fact as well and is determined to continue to work his way back into the team.
"We all have different styles and different abilities," said the forward. "Adam’s taller, Aaron uses space and speed, but at the end of the day, the combination isn’t up to me, it’s up to the Head Coach and the staff to decide. I’ve played as a ‘9’ before, I’ve played in a two-forward system – we all have different abilities and different styles, but as far as the combinations, that’s really up to the coaching staff."