Summer 2024

Chicho Arango powering Real Salt Lake attack, believes 'God put me on the right path'

Cristian “Chicho” Arango always intended to come back to Major League Soccer when he left LAFC for Mexican club Pachuca in February 2023. He did not expect to return in a matter of months, but Real Salt Lake presented a vision to Arango he found intriguing.

Less than a year since RSL announced the acquisition of Arango, that vision is coming to fruition. The team (6-2-3) sits at the top of the Western Conference about a third of the way through the MLS season, and the 29-year-old Columbian is among the favorites to win MVP.

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Arango scored the lone goal in RSL’s win over Sporting Kansas City on Saturday, his ninth in 11 MLS games. He ranks in the top three in the league in goals (nine) as well as assists (tied for second with seven), and only Lionel Messi has more goal contributions.

“It’s doing all the little stuff when we don’t have the ball. That, for me, is instrumental in his level of engagement throughout the game,” RSL head coach Pablo Mastroeni told about Arango in April. “Everything he’s doing from a leadership perspective, a goal-scoring perspective, has really lended itself to being a great leader, and the guys behind him are doing such a great job of following his lead.”

As he returned to MLS, Arango did what he’s done throughout his career: lean on his relationship with God and allow the Lord to direct his steps.

“I think God put me on the right path in the right teams to be able to shine, and hopefully it brings many more goals and many more assists and more wins,” he said last August. “Iโ€™m really happy. My family is really happy. Iโ€™m happy with my work. Thatโ€™s the important thing.โ€

Arango arrived at LAFC in the summer of 2021 and immediately became one of the most productive strikers in MLS. He netted 30 goals in 51 regular-season appearances for the club and was an MVP finalist in 2022 as LAFC won both the Supporters’ Shield (best regular-season record) and MLS Cup.

Arango called the MLS Cup victory “A title from God” (translated) in an Instagram post celebrating the championship.

LAFC sold Arango to Pachuca that offseason, where he recorded five goals and two assists in 13 league games. Even though he was not in Mexico very long, Arango valued the experience and is confident God brought him there for a reason.

“I spent a few months there (in Mexico), and enjoyed it a lot with great teammates, great coaches, fantastic ownership in Pachuca,” he said in June. “They all taught me so much. But God only knows why He puts us where He does; if God puts me in a spot at a time, itโ€™s for His reasons and to help me gain experience, responsibility and to work hard and triumph further.โ€

RSL enter Saturday’s visit to the L.A. Galaxy on a three-game winning streak and a seven-game unbeaten run in MLS play. They are three points back of Inter Miami in the Supporters’ Shield race with a game in hand.

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