After a sensational sophomore season at Cabrillo that included a school-record 34 goals and a CIF State championship, Arnold Giron has been on his way to a professional soccer career. The talented forward followed up his incredible 2019 campaign by signing with LAFC’s academy team, but the ongoing global pandemic has taken Giron—and everyone else—off the pitch.
Giron remains in contact with his coaches at LAFC twice a week, including a weekly training session on Zoom. He uses a grassy area behind his apartment building as a training ground to stay fit for whenever he can return properly to the field. Whenever that day comes, Giron said he wants to be mentally stronger and ready to score goals immediately.
“My goal is to start off strong mentally so I can focus on helping my teammates and myself stay in the game,” Giron said. “To always stay active on the field and keep myself focused enough to score goals and help my teammates regroup on the field.”
As Giron showed during Cabrillo’s playoff run in 2019, once he gets his momentum going, he’s a tough guy to keep off the score sheet. Giron scored 11 goals during the Jags’ eight-game playoff run, capping It off with a hat trick in Cabrillo’s 6-2 state championship victory over Westview.
Cabrillo head coach Pat Noyes knows first-hand how special Giron is on the field, and he forecasts a bright future for his former player at LAFC.
“He has so much huge upside,” Noyes said of Giron. “He’s not even 50 percent of what he could be in my eyes. A lot of guys have played at his level at Cabrillo but that’s as high as they’ll go, that’s it. I just think he has so much more upside.”
This past September, Giron was given the opportunity to test his talent against some of the best players in the U.S. at his age group. Giron was one of 59 players from across the country to be invited to U.S. Soccer’s Under-16 Boys’ National Team Talent Identification training camp in Chula Vista. He spent the five-day camp competing against top-quality competition, while also learning from U.S. Soccer technical staff that included U.S. Men’s National Team legend Landon Donovan.
“That experience was crazy,” Giron said of the training camp. “We were in an environment with a bunch of kids that were professionals. You could see their talent, they showed it on and off the field. Since it was my first time, it was all kind of new for me, but I was able to get along and do well and focus on learning the most I can from them. The experience was definitely unique.”
Just a few short months after that experience, the sports world has completely changed for Giron. The U.S. Soccer Development Academy, which housed the LAFC academy and those of every other Major League Soccer (MLS) club, announced on April 15 that it would be closing down for good. Just eight days prior, Giron played in what would prove to be the final game of the 2019-20 season, scoring LAFC’s lone goal against the U16/17 squad from San Diego Surf.
The MLS followed up the closure of the Development Academy by announcing plans to structure a similar league for the players left hanging in the balance. Then on May 13, the MLS unveiled its formal plan for an “elite player development platform” which would house 95 clubs from across the country, including 65 organizations like LAFC that were affiliated with the U.S. Soccer Development Academy.
While that process is still in the works, it’s a waiting game for the players involved. For Giron, he will continue to take part in training from home, and he’s preparing to finish out his senior year at Cabrillo when classes resume in the fall.
But with the ongoing transition from the development academy structure to the new MLS format, along with persistent global health concerns, it’s unclear when soccer activities will resume for Giron and everyone else at LAFC. This new gray area creates at least some opportunity for Giron’s return with the Jags. Previously, under academy rules, players were not eligible to compete for both their high school and their academy team, which is why Giron did not play his junior season at Cabrillo. Should high school soccer resume before the new MLS platform is ready for play, that could give Giron a pathway to play for Cabrillo again, should the club permit it.
“I think I would consider playing for Cabrillo because of the emotions there and the guys being there,” Giron said of a possible return. “But it depends on what the club says. I would respect their decision and stay where I’m at.”
Noyes emphasized that he wants whatever is best for Giron, but also left the door open to happy homecoming on the Westside.
“In a perfect world, my players would welcome (Giron) back with open arms,” Noyes said. “And it’s his senior year so I’d love to have him back. But if he only has to play with LAFC then not one of our guys would be anything other than happy for him.”