As the saying goes, if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.
Obviously, Kervin Arriaga isn’t the first professional athlete to answer an interview question in a way that reinforces the idea that he loves the game he gets to play for a living. But, the question itself wasn’t exactly about that. In fact, it was about dancing. As in, earlier this season, after pulling off a stunner over an expansion team being very un-expansion-like in St. Louis CITY SC. To that point in the season, they hadn’t lost a game to anybody they faced. But, after seeing a 1-0 upset come to fruition in front of an extremely loud, ravioli-loving St. Louis home crowd, it’s not surprising that it would be cause for some celebration for the visitors.
As social media would see, it was Arriaga that started what turned into an impromptu locker room dance party. So, in asking him about the widely-viewed video and if he would be treating Loons fans to more of the same at some point this season, his answer was actually more telling about his approach and feelings toward the game he’s loved since he was young.
“I’ve always been the player since I was young, the coaches I’ve had and in my case the coach that trained me in Honduras he always tells me that! I have fun but with the understanding to do this well, get results, and all of that. So, I think that when I know it’s a difficult match and the team wins, I try to reflect the joy that the game brings to me. That’s it, the joy.”
In the midst of his second season with Minnesota United, the 25-year old Honduran international has proven that his joy for the game certainly is genuine. If anything, his dance moves only solidify what fans see from Arriaga when he plays midfield for the Loons.
His joy for the sport doesn’t just come through in the way he celebrates a big win. When he’s on the pitch, Kervin Arriaga’s joy comes through in the aggressiveness he plays the game with. No, not like a hockey enforcer with all the penalties to prove it. More so, it’s how he’s everywhere on the field.
The 2022 MLS season served as a sample size of what the midfielder was capable of, but fans were also able to see flashes of just how beyond capable Arriaga’s talent is, and what it could mean to the Loons in the future. And, while it’s early-ish in the 2023 campaign and stats hold a bit lighter weight at this point in the season, seeing his versatility in action and the added dynamic that he brings to the lineup, it hasn’t been hard for Loons fans to sit up and take notice of Arriaga’s continued development. And while Arriaga has taken great strides in his development between last season and now, his push to hone his craft and reach new heights in his career is something he’s been working toward since long before he made his move to Minnesota United.
“I think coming from a competitive league like there is in Honduras, that helps a player. We know the quality of the league, the quality of the players there are in the league. You have to demand the most, try to give your best because the rest of the team will pass you over. The work, the order, and having an understanding of what the coach has been teaching is so important for a player to continue growing in the league.”
To even have a chance of reaching the professional ranks, it’s understandable that a young talent would have to develop the kind of work ethic to make it there early on in life. And, when you’re a young talent on the rise in a Central American country with as rich a futbol history as Honduras, there’s more than a good chance that a player with the aspirations to reach that level will not be waiting long for a club that’s ready and willing to get them under contract and begin developing them. For Arriaga, that club was Platense F.C., for whom he would make his pro debut on February 5, 2017.
After making 65 total appearances and registering eight goals for Platense, Arriaga would sign with C.D. Marathón, based in San Pedro Sula. It was during his time with Marathón that Kervin Arriaga would start to see the fruits of his labor grow beyond the highest levels of club play in his home country. After previously being chosen as part of the Honduras U23 team and contributing to the team’s silver medal showing in the 2019 Pan American Games, Arriaga would get the call up to the international level for the Honduras National Team in 2020. Since that time, the 25-year old has continued to hear his name called out to represent his home country, making a total of 20 appearances, most recently joining the Honduras National Team (along with MNUFC teammate Joseph Rosales) for their last match of the 2022-23 Concacaf Nations League qualifying round.
The honor of playing for your home country is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a footballer. But, when you play with the aggressive nature that Arriaga does, it can take a toll on the player’s fitness when playing internationals within the course of the season. Obviously, the honor is more than worth the effort, and for Arriaga, the secret to staying fit enough to consistently stay on the field, and flash his athleticism often? Well, when you consider his skill set includes sky-high headers and imposing challenges on the ball, the answer evoked more of that joy he prides himself on bringing to the Loons locker room, but in a slightly different sense.
“No, it’s something that’s natural. It’s a gift that God gave me to have that and be aggressive, to run and run. It’s hard for me to rest, if I rest. I have this ability to cover the length of the field and the ability to recover for the next game.”
After dealing with injuries for a stint last season, Arriaga knows he’s not immune to injury. He’s a player who listens to what his body is telling him, especially when it’s saying that it needs to rest and avoid a minor injury turning into a more serious, longer-term situation. If anything, finding that balance between body and mind seems to come from the type of leadership he’s found with Minnesota United in manager Adrian Heath. He credits Heath for not only finding ways to utilize ways to teach him more as a player on the field, but also finding ways to learn that won’t take a toll on his body in the process.
When asked about what he appreciates most about Heath’s leadership, Arriaga makes it clear that the gaf’s mentality is his greatest teaching tool, saying he appreciates, “Everything. The teaching, what he invests in the players. He always has this mentality, a positivity towards the players. He always wants to teach us, and we always want to continue learning from him.” That teaching, he says, includes a great deal of mental work too, and comes in the form of studying the video and taking a more critical look at what he’s doing right and where he can improve. While this isn’t revolutionary in terms of preparing for game action, for Arriaga it’s something he has learned to embrace more and more for the sake of staying on the field and being ready to answer the call when the Loons, or his home country, need him.
It’s just another example of the many ways Kervin Arriaga continues to find appreciation in his chosen profession. But, we would be remiss not to have asked about one of those sure-fire ways that indicate to Loons fans just how passionate he is about the beautiful game. That being his love for sporting a fresh look for his follicles on that pitch. While he has yet to make a colorful gesture during this 2023 season, Arriaga intends on making his hair pop at some point this year, but unfortunately, he didn’t give up many spoilers on what the new look would be.
“What I wanted to do was all of the colors, but I think it’ll be in the future, I don’t know. We’re going to wait a month or two.”
In a month or two, there’s no telling just what Kervin Arriaga will mean to Minnesota United’s form on the field. But, hair dye aside, there is a very good chance that his accession as one of the most energetic and athletic members of the squad will result in more joy for this club, both on and off the field.