Arsenal’s Auston Trusty: Inspired by Ronaldinho, World Cup dreams and Birmingham loan
Auston Trusty points to his white Nike Tiempo boots as inspiration.
Growing up, he watched clips of Ronaldinho wearing the same shoes as his love for the sport grew in Pennsylvania, a US state not known for producing footballers.
Trusty, now 23, signed for Arsenal from Colorado Rapids in January and will spend the 2022-23 season on loan at Birmingham City in the Championship, but says his journey has not been easy.
“I grew up playing football in the garden all by myself,” the centre-back said after an impressive training session at the Wast Hills base in Birmingham.
“Getting my friends to play football was impossible. It was always American football or basketball. I was negotiating with my closest brother (in age), who played lacrosse. I would play with him a bit if he played football and that’s how I trained when I was younger.
Like Ronaldinho, his sister, Onnie, really made the difference.
She also loved football and played for the United States at youth level, allowing a young Auston to be a ball boy at big games and meeting famous figures in the industry.
“I was the youngest of six children and everyone was a superstar in their sport,” he says. “I was dragged through all of their games by choice. I went to basketball, track and field, soccer, triple jump and high jump, lacrosse, and then there was me.
“So my sister, I grew up watching her and I loved it. I remember she traveled all over the world going to all these places and I thought, ‘Wow, I really want to do that.” That, and the World Cup in South Africa, cemented the love of the game for me.
Still, turning a childhood dream into reality – and now with the will to make the USA World Cup team – was far from simple.
Trusty worked hard – “unbelievably hard”, according to those who know him well – to get where he is today.
He is one of a small group of MLS graduates in England who are fighting to raise the reputation of football in his native country.
“OK, so Christian Pulisic is playing for Chelsea but he’s just a guy. An American,” Trusty says. “He’s separated and you put everyone in another group. Once more guys start coming and establish themselves, people will realize that these guys can play and that will help.
Trusty actually tried his hand at American football as a running back in school and claims he “did pretty well, but got so fucked up” that he decided that football (his teammates at Birmingham warned him not to say “football”) was better for him.
A sliding door moment then occurred on the day he was supposed to begin his studies alongside college football for the North Carolina Tar Heels. Instead, at the age of 17, he signed a professional contract for the Philadelphia Union, where the stadium was just minutes from the house he grew up in.
“I called my coach and told him I wasn’t going and he still hasn’t spoken to me until now,” he says. “But I recently graduated from college. I’ve been doing online school for the past four years, studying business.
Only time will tell where this qualification will take him. For now football is his future and he is at Birmingham for the season without a break clause before returning to Arsenal, the Premier League club which signed him seven months ago before loaning him to the Rapids. where he played 16 games in the current MLS. season.
Life in England is fresh and full of adventure. He met some of his new teammates and managers at Arsenal last week and will remain in close contact with loan manager Ben Knapper.
The first few trips to Birmingham city center were fun. “The food is there,” he says. “I like Nando’s and Wagamama!”
Inevitably, there were also a few difficult days. “I was a little homesick when I moved in. Once I was able to relax, I realized it was just me and that’s when I kinda missed home. Now I’m close to the team and getting closer to some players, that’s good. The transition is starting and the reception has been good from everyone.
The real challenge is to help Birmingham tighten a leaky back line and, in turn, show Arsenal they are ready for the rigors of English football and capable of stepping up a gear.
Trusty is nimble and hard to beat. He reads the game well and is comfortable playing in a three-man defense, as John Eustace is ready to prepare his team for the start of this season.
A bigger pool of talent is growing in MLS and English clubs are more willing to give players a chance.
After just a few training sessions, Birmingham club captain Troy Deeney can see why Arsenal experimented with the signing.
“We gave him a bit of a hard time about being American…he’s very American,” Deeney laughs. “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 dominant, and if he talks a little more , he has a chance to go on that next level.
“We are very lucky to have him and we will continue to give him stick. We’ll try to make a man out of him before he leaves and hopefully I’ll get him an NFL ticket in return.
Trusty hopes the next few months can shape an exciting end to 2022. He is focused on getting into the thoughts of United States coach Gregg Berhalter ahead of the World Cup in Qatar.
Berhalter is aware of his talent, having already called him up to train with the team this year, but he has yet to appear.
“If I come here and do my job, it can prove a lot,” he says. “By playing MLS and doing well there, you get a bit of respect and you get noticed a bit more. But if I come here and play my game the way I can, I could turn around a lot. heads, open many eyes.
The opportunity to play against England, where Trusty believes football is at a “gold standard”, in Qatar is appealing. He says the national team is motivated because they’ve heard all the old suggestions of not being good enough.
“There’s a stigma where we hear the ‘they 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 what we let’s feel.
“I think we’re really good, but yeah, if the United States can beat England, we’ll be very happy about that.”
Top MLS players have spoken of the improving level of the domestic game and Trusty believes the league is going from strength to strength.
“I know in the past all the players in Europe who are more established have come to bring fans and bring money, but they also still have quality. The league is slowly leaning into this phase, although Gareth Bale has just become an older player, but he’s still quite fit and doing his job.
Trusty reckons the Championship is on a similar level but assumes it will be more intense due to the increased fixture schedule.
“I expect it to be tougher. MLS players can come here and play, it’s just if you can handle the grind aspect because the guys really want it here.
“Even in training our own players are pushing because they want to show what they can do and have an impact. But I’m ready. My mindset is, ‘go until I fall , man. I’m so excited for this.
(Top photo: John Todd/ISI Photos/Getty Images)