CARSON -- Eder Arreola is something of a sponge right now, soaking up every bit of knowledge and understanding he can find as he fights to make the Houston Dynamo's roster.
The winger from Chino Hills and UCLA, who went to the MLS Cup runner-up in last month's supplemental draft, is off to a good start, impressing with his touch and instincts, but he knows nothing is guaranteed. Arreola has not been offered a contract by the Dynamo, but if he keeps up his effort and performance the next couple of weeks or so, he could have something to sign before Houston's season kicks off March 11 against Chivas USA at Home Depot Center.
“We still have a little bit of time to go here. We have one more game [in Southern California] before we head back to Houston,” Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear said after Arreola played the first 45 minutes in a 2-0 loss Sunday to the Portland Timbers at Home Depot Center. “We'll see what the roster's looking like. He's put himself in a good position to be talked about in a good way.”
Arreola, 20, a natural left-sided flank player, is looking to provide cover for star winger Brad Davis, who is pretty far along in rehabbing the torn quadriceps muscle that forced him out of the MLS Cup loss to the Galaxy. Colin Clark can do so, but he's looking to win the job on the right side.
There's plenty of mentors around, including Davis -- Major League Soccer's best winger and a league MVP finalist last season -- and Clark. Kinnear was a U.S. national team attacking midfielder, and assistant coach Steve Ralston, MLS's all-time assists leader, is among the finest flank players in league history.
“It's been a great experience getting together with the guys and playing against other MLS teams,” said Arreola, who started two of Houston's three HDC preseason matches. “I feel like I've taken a lot of information from coaches. They've been helping me, and the other players have really helped me out, just knowing my movements and little things like that.”
Kinnear likes what he's seen.
“Good feet. He's got a real nice first touch,” said the two-time MLS Cup-winning coach. “The level of competition has been a good test for him. I think he's good when he's getting [opposing] players one-on-one -- he can go at them, he can come inside. And he has a real good soccer brain, I think.”
Arreola, who started at UCLA at 16, possesses extensive U.S. youth national team experience -- he left for U-17 residency in Florida midway through his sophomore year at Chino Hills High School -- and was a key part of what made UCLA's attack so vibrant, especially the past two seasons.
The national team experience is valuable: “You're always competing on national teams,” he said. “You're always competing, so you're always fighting for a spot, and that's exactly what I'm doing here.”
UCLA's program has long been a top provider for MLS (and Europe). Kinnear says Bruins are “good, well-rounded athletes” and “good soccer players ... but the one thing that has always stood out for me is how hard they work and how fit they are, which I think always kind of puts them at an advantage.”
There are a half-dozen players from the UCLA side that reached the NCAA semifinals last fall could make MLS rosters this winter. Arreola hopes he's one of them. His goal for 2012?
“Signing with a professional team,” he said. “Obviously, I'd be really happy to sign with Houston. Hopefully, that goes well for me, and from there just work hard and see what the future has for me.”
WORTH NOTING: Jack Jewsbury and James Marcelin scored second-half goals for Portland, which was the better side in the second half but not the first. Marcelin's strike, from about 25 yards, caromed off the crossbar, straight down and out. The linesman ruled it had crossed into the goal. ... UC Irvine product Miguel Ibarra, a supplemental draft choice for Portland, played the final 20 minutes in his second game appearance for the Timbers this preseason. ... Houston Dynamo co-owner Gabriel Brener, who is based in L.A., and his sons were on hand for the game. Chivas USA head coach Robin Fraser and top assistant Greg Vanney watched from a corner with University of Redlands head coach Ralph Perez, a former Galaxy assistant coach. ... The Dynamo left after the game for Ventura. They'll train at Oxnard College on Monday, play San Jose on Tuesday, then return to L.A. for the flight home.
Home Depot Center University Field 2 (Carson)
Portland Timbers 2, Houston Dynamo 0
P -- Jack Jewsbury (Ryan Kawulok) 63
P -- James Marcelin 86
Portland Timbers: Troy Perkins; Lovel Palmer (Ryan Kawulok, 55), Eric Brunner, Mamadou Danso, Rodney Wallace (Mike Chabala, 83); Jack Jewsbury (Jose Balcazar, 65), Diego Chara (James Marcelin, 63); Kalif Alhassan (Darlington Nagbe, 46), Franck Songo'o (Sebastian Rincon, 73), Eric Alexander (Miguel Ibarra, 73); Bright Dike (Jorge Perlaza, 73).
Houston Dynamo: Tally Hall (Eric Marscheider, 46); Kofi Sarkodie (Andre Hainault, 46), Nathan Sturgis (Bobby Boswell, 46), Geoff Cameron (Jermaine Taylor, 46), Oscar Recio (Corey Ashe, 46); Emerson Soto (Brian Ownby, 46; Philip Aseweh, 71), Adam Moffat (Warren Creavalle, 46; Luiz Camargo, 71), Je-Vaughn Watson (Josue Soto, 46), Eder Arreola (Colin Clark, 46); Macoumba Kandji (Colin Rolfe, 46; Cam Weaver, 71), Will Bruin (Darryl Roberts, 46).
Yellow cards: None.
Referee: Baldomero Toledo. Att.: c. 50.