Cristian 'Chicho' Arango, Real Salt Lake
Cristian 'Chicho' Arango scored his second hat trick of the season against Austin FC on June 1; leads MLS in goals (16) Via @realsaltlake on X/Twitter

SEATTLE - No one expected Cristian 'Chicho' Arango to have the season he is having with Real Salt Lake. No one except for himself. Talking to MLS reporter Andy Deossa, Arango told him that he was committed to reaching the 18-goal mark. Halfway through the 2024 MLS season, Arango sits at 16 goals and is on pace to having one of the best seasons in league history.

Arango arrived to MLS in 2021 and didn't need too much time to take the league by storm. He was named 2021 MLS Newcomer of the Year after contributing to a team-high 14 goals in 17 appearances for LAFC.

His great form with the Black & Gold granted him a move to Liga MX club Pachuca. But after a brief stint with the Mexican team, Arango found himself back in MLS but this time around with Real Salt Lake and ever since 'Chicho' joined the Claret & Cobalt, goals have come in a handful for the Colombian striker.

On June 1, he scored three goals in RSL's 5-1 win over Austin FC. It was his second hat trick of the season and took his total tally to 16 goals in 2024, three more than any other player in the league.

He opened the score against Austin FC with perhaps a contender for goal of the year in MLS. He pinged the ball from his own half and surprised Austin's goalkeeper from a registered 62.7 yards out.

Chicho Arango INCREDIBLE Goal From HALF FIELD vs. Austin FC

'Chicho' is having an amazing first season with Real Salt Lake and has even been made captain of the team. RSL coach Pablo Mastroeni said in the post-match press conference that giving 'Chicho' the armband has "definitely not only helped Chicho, because he's a person that wants to take on responsibility, but has made our team better."

With Arango leading the line, RSL sits at the very top of the Western Conference with 33 points and only Inter Miami (35) has more in all of MLS.

Strikes from midfield and beyond: Watch the longest-ranging goals in MLS

From tap ins to goals from his own half, Arango cannot be stopped nor contained. His hat trick against Austin put him at 25 goal contributions in the season in just 17 games, becoming the third fastest player in MLS history to reach 25 G+A only behind Lionel Messi (12 GP) and Carlos Vela (16 GP).

Besides his goals, Arango has also created plenty of chances for his teammates. His nine assists are the most by any striker in MLS this season and has 32 key passes in attack for RSL in 2024. In the entire league, only Messi (25) can tie Arango's offensive contribution.

'Chicho' is without a doubt a contender for the Landon Donovan MVP award and his numbers are proof of it. With his third goal against Austin, Arango reached 50 career MLS goals in just 79 games, tying Raúl Ruidíaz as the second-fastest active player to reach 50 career goals. Only Josef Martínez (54 games) did so in fewer games.

He is on pace to have a record-breaking season. Only Josef Martínez (14 GP in 2017), Carlos Vela (15 GP in 2019), Mamadou Diallo (15 GP in 2000) and Jaime Moreno (16 GP in 1997) needed fewer games than 'Chicho' to hit the 15-goal mark in MLS.

With half the season to go, Arango would need to score 18 more goals to tie the all-time record set by Vela in 2019 with 34 goals in a season. For comparison, when Vela set the record, the Mexican also had 16 goals in his first 17 games of 2019.

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