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LAFC's Cristian Arango, Ryan Hollingshead win MLS Cup playing for God's glory

Major League Soccer’s best two teams were expected to deliver an entertaining final, but nobody could have predicted the chaos that ensued at Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles on Saturday.

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Playing up a man after Los Angeles goalkeeper Maxime Crépeau was sent off, the Philadelphia Union scored the latest goal in MLS history to take a 3-2 lead in stoppage time during the second half of extra time. But it was broken just four minutes later when former Tottenham and Real Madrid star Gareth Bale headed home an equalizer to send the game to a penalty-kick shootout.

LAFC subsequently won the shootout, 3-0, to capture the MLS Cup for the first time in its history. Los Angeles became the first team since Toronto FC in 2017 to win both the MLS Cup and the Supporters’ Shield — awarded to the regular-season champion — in the same season.

Among the starters for LAFC were forward Cristian “Chicho” Arango and defender Ryan Hollingshead, both of whom are outspoken about their faith in God. Arango led the team with 16 goals during the regular season, also scoring the game-winner in the quarterfinals and in the semifinals.

After Saturday’s thrilling win, he kneel-walked around the field as a way to show respect for and gratitude to God.

The Colombian native also thanked God in two Instagram posts with captions in Spanish. One read, “A title from God,” while the other, “CHAMPIONS THANKS TO GOD.”

Hollingshead, meanwhile, played the entire game at right back and converted a penalty kick in the decisive shootout. A crucial piece to LAFC’s success, his six goals in the regular season tied for the most by any defender in the league.

The 31-year-old spent the first eight years of his career with FC Dallas before being traded to LAFC this offseason. He wrote about his experience being traded in a devotional for the Fall 2022 issue of Sports Spectrum Magazine.

“I hadn’t heard anything from anyone on staff or my agent,” Hollingshead remembered, “but then all of a sudden I got pulled aside after a training session one day. My coach in Dallas said the team had been getting offers involving me, and they ended up accepting one. Just like that, I was going to L.A.

“The Lord is so good and faithful, though. I’m from California and I went to school at UCLA, so we’re now back in L.A., where we just have a ton of family and friends and connections. It really has been special and we’re super excited to be here.”

Hollingshead, who calls himself a Christian in his Twitter and Instagram bios, has been known to discuss his faith on social media.

 

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A post shared by Ryan Hollingshead (@rmhollingshead)


Hollingshead was also asked in a press conference earlier in the season how his faith impacted him on the field. He explained that he finds freedom knowing he’s not ultimately defined by his soccer career.

“It factors into everything I do,” he said. “That’s been one of the things coming into L.A., it’s been fun in this organization getting to know a lot of other believers on this team. So for me as a Christian, it gives me a lot of peace in the way that I play.

“There’s not this anxiety of, ‘I have to do all these things, or I have to perform in all these ways.’ I get to just kind of play out of a confidence in who I am as a player — what the Lord has given me — and how I can not only be a good player on the field but also a good man on and off the field. So it really does affect everything that I do.”

With an MLS Cup now in hand, Arango, Hollingshead and the rest of their LAFC teammates are set to begin their title defense against their crosstown rival, the L.A. Galaxy, at the Rose Bowl on Feb. 25. The Galaxy were the last team to repeat as MLS Cup champions, winning in 2011 and 2012.

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