(KANSAS CITY -- Kansas City Wizards attacking talent Davy Arnaud, who spends 90 plus minutes of every soccer game finding ways to terrorize opposing defenses, recently turned 27 years old. That's bad news for the rest of MLS, simply because it means that Arnaud is in his physical prime, and his motor is ready for a big stretch run.
Need proof? Check out the highlights of the Wizards' 2-2 draw with the visiting Colorado Rapids last Sunday. All Arnaud did was beat his defender and play a sleek right-footed pass to assist on Eddie Johnson's opening goal. Then, after repeatedly running at the Rapids defense, finding seam after seam, he beat two more defenders before firing a left-footed shot off the far post that rebounded right to Johnson for K.C.'s second goal. Highlights aside, just watching the buzzing Arnaud can be exhausting.
"You know day in, day out, whether it's on the practice field or in games, that he's going to give you everything he's got," said teammate Jack Jewsbury. "That's the reason he is where he is today, just because he works so hard. Every day he's improving."
Improving and competing are one in the same. It's a philosophy Arnaud seems to apply to every aspect of his life -- whether it be soccer, golf or ping-pong.
"Absolutely, especially on the golf course," said Arnaud, who lost his chief golf competitor when Josh Wolff left for Germany in the offseason. "Me and Jack and (teammates) Ryan Pore, A.J. [Godbolt] and Michael Kraus, we play -- but A.J. isn't very good, but he talks a good game. We have a good time, and it's always competitive no matter what we're doing."
But what makes Arnaud's high-octane motor tick? What keeps him motivated?
"I've never been a part of youth national teams [and I] didn't go to a big school," said the West Texas A&M University graduate. "Maybe in a way I felt like I always had to prove myself. I still feel the same way now. ... That's kind of what motivates me."
A fast, skillful and motivated player is just what Wizards head coach Curt Onalfo needs in his attacking scheme.
"His work ethic and his will to win are infectious, and he has become one of the quiet leaders of this team. He's a coach's dream really," said Onalfo. "He's a national team player in the making.
"His best quality is his ability to beat players one-v-one. We've been speaking to him about that. He has to put himself in positions where he's able to get guys one-v-one and be aggressive to goal."
That mission is one Arnaud is glad to fulfill -- he just would like to finish off those plays more often than his current rate of three goals in 17 matches. A consummate team player, Arnaud had a chance to win Sunday's game for his team after they had twice given up a one-goal lead and were playing a man down.
With only seconds left, Arnaud beat two defenders on the dribble leaving only Rapids goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul in his way. Arnaud's shot trickled a bit beyond Coundoul after the goalkeeper parried it, but he was still able to smother it.
"I've had my fair share of chances, hit the post a couple of times, hit the 'keeper in the stomach. You talk to anybody -- goal scoring comes in waves," said Arnaud, who is tied for the team assist lead with five. "Maybe one goes through the 'keeper's legs here or there or goes off the post and goes in and [my goal total] is a little different, but it's not something I'm concerned with. If you keep putting yourself in good spots, the goals will come."
With more finishes, a personal goal of Arnaud's could come to fruition -- a second call-up to the U.S. national team. Last January he received a call to camp, but recent surgery kept him out.
"I want to be there. I'm not going to say I don't because I think every player wants to be there," he said. "But if I can keep plugging away, hopefully I'll get a chance at some time. That's the way it goes, you just have to keep working hard."
"The things he has to add to his game to make him a national team player are his decision making needs to get a little bit better, he [needs to] do things a little bit quicker at times, and he needs to get sharper in front of goal. Having said that, he's the heart and soul of our team," said Onalfo, a former U.S. assistant under Bruce Arena.
Making the U.S. national team would give Arnaud another chance to prove himself. Does the desire for Arnaud to prove himself tempt him to look at moving on to Europe as well?
"I'm here, committed here, and want to be part of a team that is winning championships. If you are part of a team like that, it reflects on everybody; everybody is going to be successful," Arnaud said. "I'm open-minded about anything. It's something I don't necessarily think about. I think about what I'm doing now and trying to help this team to win."
Bob Rusert is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.