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How Paul Arriola could improve FC Dallas’ attack

While the GAM involved is a lot for FC Dallas, the move should boost the attack in the long run.

MLS: Columbus Crew SC at D.C. United Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports

FC Dallas recently bought Paul Arriola from DC United for $2 million in allocation. The deal was the largest trade involving allocation money in league history.

Arriola mostly plays on the right, often as a right midfielder or right winger but he has some experience on the left as a midfielder or winger and has played centrally sometimes. He began his career in the LA Galaxy Academy before moving to Mexico and eventually joining Club Tijuana during the 2014/15 season. He progressed very well there and made a big-money move to DC United during the 2017/18 season for $3.2 million.

He impressed enough in his couple of seasons at DC United to attract the interest of Swansea City and joined them on a loan move during the 2020/21 season. Through injuries and a lack of game time, Arriola was recalled back by DC just two months later. Now, after a season with DCU, Arriola will join FC Dallas and attempt to regain his form and build off a solid season.

However, Arriola does face some competition for his starting job from Jader Obrian, who is coming off nine goals and four assists in his first season in MLS. Therefore, in this article, I will attempt to compare both of these wingers and highlight some strengths and weaknesses to determine how they can influence FC Dallas this season and beyond.


While I don’t believe that goals per 90 is an accurate prediction of a player’s performance the next season because such few goals are scored, it does matter.

  • Arriola ranked 12th out of 88 wingers in MLS in this category in 2021 with ~0.4 goals per 90
  • Obrian virtually matched this output, ranking 15th with ~0.35 goals per 90
  • Both wingers came in pretty high among their MLS peers in terms of goal-scoring and not much of a difference existed between the two last season
  • Shots per 90, on the other hand, is a more informative indicator of shooting performance in the next season
  • Arriola ranked solidly ahead of Obrian, coming in at 13th in shots per 90 ~2.4 shots per 90 while Obrian was about average (48th) with ~1.7 shots per 90
  • However, Obrian had much more accuracy with his shots, coming in at 16th in Shots on Target %, with an impressive 50% of shots coming on target
  • Meanwhile, Arriola ranked 72nd with just 29% of his shots coming on target


MLS: Minnesota United FC at FC Dallas Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
  • Arriola and Obrian are pretty similar in terms of dribbles attempted with Arriola coming in at 49th with ~4.2 dribbles per 90 and Obrian in 56th with ~3.8 dribbles per 90
  • This shows that they have approximately the same willingness to take on and beat defenders with their skilling or dribbling
  • Arriola, however, is very effective with his dribbles, completing nearly 61%
  • Obrian, on the other hand, completed 50% of his dribbles which ranked him 43rd in the league last season
  • Arriola does not progress the ball very much with his dribbling, as he only ranked 65th in progressive runs, averaging ~1.6 per 90
  • Obrian, however, ranked 40th in the league, averaging 2.2 progressive runs per 90
  • This indicates that Obrian’s dribbling is slightly more dangerous and direct than Arriola
  • This claim can also be supported by a player’s ability to draw fouls which Obrian is also better at, as he drew ~1.7 per 90 (ranking him 27th) while Arriola only drew ~1.1 per 90 (ranking him 58th)



  • Arriola attempts more crosses than Obrian, ranking 24th and attempting ~2.8 per 90 while Obrian ranked 50th at ~1.7 per 90
  • Arriola also completes his crosses at a higher rate than Obrian
  • Arriola completed ~37.9% of his crosses (ranking him 26th) during the 2021 season while Obrian completed just 34% (ranking him 37th)
  • Therefore, I think it is reasonable to say that Arriola is the better crosser of the two and likely more dangerous in wider areas with his passing

Penalty Area Passing

  • This statistic makes up one of the largest differences between Obrian and Arriola as:
  • Arriola ranked 12th with 3.65 passes to the penalty area and Obrian ranked 77th with merely ~1.3 passes to the penalty area
  • Obrian does complete his passes to the penalty area at a high percentage, as he was 16th among wingers in the league and completed ~60.6% of his passes
  • Arriola is pretty similar in this department, as he ranked only ten spots out (~58.6%) from Obrian in this category
  • Therefore, although Arriola completes his passes at a slightly lower percentage, I believe he will be better in this category because he attempts many more passes in this area

Progressive Passes

  • Similar to their penalty area passing, Arriola also attempts a lot more progressive passes than Obrian
  • Arriola ranked 23rd in the league in progressive passes per 90, averaging around 5.2
  • On the flip side, Obrian ranked 77th and attempted just 2.1 progressive passes per 90
  • However, unlike his passes to the penalty area, Arriola ranked 3rd in the league in progressive pass percentage, completing an insane ~88% of his progressive passes
  • Obrian is no better in completing his progressive passes than attempting them, as he ranked 70th, completing just ~67.3% of his progressive passes
  • This statistic shows that last season, Arriola was involved much more in the buildup of attacks than Obrian, so if FC Dallas are looking for a player to progress their attacks from midfield to the forwards and wingers, Arriola is your man


MLS: D.C. United at Orlando City SC Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

Defensive Duals

  • In contrast to their passing, Obrian attempts many more defensive duals than Arriola
  • Obrian ranked 32nd and attempted ~5.9 defensive duals per 90
  • Arriola ranked 84th and attempted a mere ~2.8 defensive duals per 90
  • Obrian also completes a considerably larger amount of his duals than Arriola
  • Obrian ranked 38th in defensive duels won, completing his duels at a rate of ~56.2%
  • Arriola, on the other hand, nearly ranked last in the league and completed only ~38.6% of his defensive duals
  • This shows that while Arriola is no doubt the better passer and playmaker, Obrian is superior at defending and pressing


Overall, I think Arriola is a solid player but I’m not sure why FC Dallas decided to spend decent money on a position that was filled last season relatively well. I could understand getting some depth behind Obrian but I’m not sure the reason behind bringing in Arriola unless he plays as more of an attacking midfielder or something similar. Either way, the right midfielder/winger position for FC Dallas will have a lot of competition this season, between both of these guys.

Overall, I think both of the players’ shooting statistics are fairly similar, as Arriola has taken more shots per 90 while Obrian converts more of his shots on target. Therefore, I might opt for Obrian in this category but I think both are pretty solid. On the playmaking side of things, Arriola is unquestionably an upgrade, as he contributes much more in the development of attacks and his crossing is also better than Obrian. However, Obrian is much better in his pressing and defense than Arriola. Therefore, I think the combination of Obrian and Arriola locks down the right winger spot for FC Dallas and prepares them for practically any situation at that position, I’m just not sure right now if the transfer was worth that valuable GAM.