Arsenal’s Auston Trusty: Inspired by Ronaldinho, World Cup dreams and Birmingham loan

Auston Trusty cites the white Nike Tiempo shoe as a source of inspiration.

Growing up, he would watch clips of Ronaldinho wearing the same shoes as his love for the sport grew in Pennsylvania, a US state not known for producing football players.

Trusty, 23, signed with Arsenal from Colorado Rapids in January and will spend the 2022-23 season on loan at Birmingham City in the tournament, but says his journey has not been straightforward.

“I grew up playing backyard football on my own,” the center back said after a fantastic training session at West Hills base in Birmingham.

“Getting my friends to play football was impossible. It was always American football or basketball. I would negotiate with my closest brother (in age), who played lacrosse. I would play with him a bit if he played football and so I trained when I was younger.”

In addition to Ronaldinho, his sister, Unni, has really made the difference.

She also loved football and played for the United States at youth level, which gave young Auston the opportunity to be a ball boy in the big matches and meet famous people in the industry.

“I was the youngest of six and everyone was a star in their sports,” he says. “I’ve been running in all of their games by choice. I went into basketball, long-distance track, soccer, triple jump and high jump, lacrosse, and then it was me.

“So my sister, I grew up watching it and loving it. I remember traveling around the world and going to all these places and thinking, ‘Wow, I really want to do this.’ This, and the World Cup in South Africa, really fueled my passion for the game.”

However, turning a childhood dream into reality – now with the desire to make the US team at the World Cup – was not easy.

Trusty has worked hard—”very hard,” according to those who know him best—to get to where it is today.

He is among a small group of MLS alumni in England striving to raise the profile of football in his home country.

“Okay, Christian Pulisic plays for Chelsea but that’s just one guy. ‘One American’,” Trusty says. “I broke up and put everyone in another group. Once more players start coming in and establishing themselves, people will realize that these players can play and that will help.”

Trusty actually tried to play American football as a regular for school and claimed he “was very good, but he messed up so badly” that he decided that football (his Birmingham teammates warned him not to say “soccer”) was better for him.

Then the Sliding Doors moment happened on the day he was supposed to start more education alongside college football at the North Carolina Tar Heels. Instead, at the age of 17, he signed on to a professional team for the Philadelphia Union, with the field just a few minutes from the home he grew up in.

“I called my coach and told him I wasn’t going and he didn’t talk to me until today,” he says. “But I recently graduated from college. I studied online for the past four years, studying business administration.”

Only time will tell where this qualification will take him. At the moment, football is his future and he is in Birmingham for this season without a break clause before returning to Arsenal, the Premier League club he signed seven months ago before loaning him to the Rapids, where he has played 16 games in the current Major League Soccer. season.


Trusty is ready to ‘grind’ the championship with Birmingham (Photo: Birmingham City FC)

Life in England is new and full of adventure. He met some of his new teammates and Arsenal’s coaching staff last week and will remain in close contact with loan director Ben Knaber.

Early trips to downtown Birmingham were fun. “The food is ready,” he says. “I love Nando’s and Wagamama!”

Inevitably, there were rough days, too. “I was a little homesick when I first moved in. Once I could relax I realized I was on my own, that’s when I started missing home a little bit. Now I’m close to the team and getting close to some guys, it’s good. The transition has started. And it was a good welcome from everyone.”

The real challenge is to help Birmingham tighten up their leaky back streak, and in turn show Arsenal that they are ready for the rigors of English football and capable of rising.

Confidence is agility and hard to beat. He reads the match well and feels comfortable playing in a three-man defense, the way John Eustace is preparing to make up his squad at the start of this season.

A larger pool of talent is being developed in MLS and English clubs are more willing to give players a chance.

After a few training sessions, Birmingham captain Troy Deeney can see why Arsenal are trying to sign.

“We gave him a little bit of attention because he’s American…He’s very American,” Denny says with a laugh. “But on a serious note, he’s going to be really impressive this year, not only because he’s left-handed and they all look better, but he’s athletically explosive, he’s in control and if he talks a little bit more he has a chance to go that next level.

“We are very fortunate to have him and will continue to give him the baton. We will try to make him a man before he leaves and hopefully get an NFL ticket in return.”

Trusty hopes the next few months could mark an exciting end to 2022. He has focused on getting into the ideas of US coach Greg Berhalter ahead of the World Cup in Qatar.

Berhalter is aware of his talent after calling him up to train with the team this year but he has yet to show up.

“If I come here and do my job, it could prove a lot,” he says. “Playing MLS and doing well there, you get some respect and you get a little more attention. But if I come here and play my game as well as I can, I can turn a lot of heads, open a lot of eyes.”

The chance to play against England, where Trusty believes football is at the ‘gold standard’, is an attractive one in Qatar. He says the national team is excited because they heard all the old suggestions about not being good enough.

“There’s a stigma where we get the ‘can’t play’ talk, just because we’re American. People have heard that before and we have to prove ourselves because of it. That’s how we feel.”

“I think we are really good, but yes, if the United States can beat England, we will be very happy about that.”

Prominent MLS players have talked about the improvement of the local game and Trusty believes the league is getting stronger.

“I know in the past that all the more established players in Europe came to bring in fans and bring in money, but they also still have quality. The league is slowly tending to get out of that stage, even though Gareth Bale has just come in as an older player. But he’s still pretty fit. It’s good and does its job.”

Trusty believes the tournament is at a similar level but assumes it will be more intense due to the increased schedule of matches.

“I expect it to be more difficult. MLS players can come in here and play, it’s only if you can handle the grinding aspect because the players really want it here.

“Even in training, our players push really hard because they want to show what they can do and make an impact. But I’m ready. My mindset is, ‘Go til I fall, man. I’m so excited about it.”

(Top image: John Todd/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

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