SANDY, Utah (Saturday, June 10, 2023) – Real Salt Lake has acquired 28-year-old FW Cristian ‘Chicho’ Arango via permanent transfer from Mexican side C.F. Pachuca (Liga MX) on a three-year deal, with an option to extend for the 2026 MLS season. Pending receipt of P-1 work visa and International Transfer Certificate, as well as the opening of Major League Soccer’s secondary window on July 5, Arango will be added to Head Coach Pablo Mastroeni’s 2023 RSL roster as a Designated Player, eligible to appear for the Claret-and-Cobalt at America First Field on Sat., July 8 against Orlando City FC. Tickets for this and all RSL home games – including tonight’s against New York City FC – are available at www.RSL.com/tickets.
Over the span of his MLS career before joining Liga MX side Pachuca in January, Arango established himself as one of the league’s most prolific strikers and most dominating players. Across all competitions, Arango scored 35 goals in only 58 appearances for LAFC, establishing himself as a lethal finisher and perennial MVP candidate.
At halftime Saturday at America First Field, Arango and his family will be introduced to the anticipated 20,000+ in Sandy, as RSL will present the Colombian international with his customary No. 9 jersey, now in both Claret/Cobalt and Beehive Gold. To celebrate the occasion, the RSL Team Store will provide special customization pricing for Arango RSL kits on site on Saturday.
Arango’s signing marks the 15th player arrival to Real Salt Lake since the middle of last May, with the upcoming Major League Soccer secondary transfer window opening up in early July. Arango arrives at RSL as the sides’ third occupant of the “Designated Player” roster designation – joining both Venezuelan winger Jefferson Savarino and Captain Damir Kreilach – while leaving the Utah side with various mechanisms yet to be potentially used this summer for continued 2023 roster construction, ahead of July’s inaugural Leagues Cup and RSL’s August participation in the 2023 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup final four.
Arango took Major League Soccer by storm when he first joined LAFC in 2021, scoring 14 goals in 17 games, earning 2021 MLS Newcomer of the Year honors and making his first-ever appearance for the Colombian National Team. The Medellín native followed up his inaugural MLS campaign with 16 goals last year, helping LAFC win the Supporters Shield and MLS Cup 2022. In the postseason, Arango netted two goals in three matches LAFC’s route to winning its first MLS Cup, defeating Philadelphia Union in penalty kicks. For his performance last season, Arango was named a finalist for Major League Soccer’s 2022 Landon Donovan MVP award.
Arango, now 28, was born in Medellin, Colombia, beginning his professional career as a 17-year-old in with Enviagdo FC of Categoria Primera A, the Colombian top-flight. In three seasons with Enviagdo, Arango recorded nine goals and eight assists in 82 appearances, earning a loan to Valencia B, the reserve side for the famous Spanish football club. In his one season in Spain with Valencia B, Arango scored nine goals in 26 appearances.
Ahead of the 2017 season, Arango made a move to Colombian giants, Millonarios F.C., netting three goals in 12 matches, helping his club lift its 15th Liga Águila title before securing a deal with Benfica in Portugal. Throughout his time with Benfica, Arango saw himself loaned out twice, first to C.D. Aves –
where he scored three goals in 22 games played – and winning the Taça de Portugal. The next season, Arango was loaned out to C.D. Tondela where he again scored three goals, this time in 21 matches.
‘Chicho’ – his preferred form of address, instead of his given name, Cristian – then returned to Millonarios in Colombia, scoring 24 goals in 60 matches, gaining the attention of Los Angeles FC in Major League Soccer. Across two seasons with LAFC, Arango was named to the MLS Team of the Week five times, earning Player of the Week twice. In both the 2021 and 2022 campaigns Arango finished as LAFC’s leading scorer.
This past winter saw Arango move to Mexico, where he recorded five goals and two assists in 13 games with CF Pachuca in Liga MX, including goals scored in each of his last five games with the Mexican side, one of Real Salt Lake’s fellow participants in this summer’s Leagues Cup from July 21 – August 19.