Real Salt Lake striker Chicho Arango was named to MLSsoccer.com’s Major League Soccer Team of the Matchday’s starting XI. This is the Colombian’s first time being named to the TOTM starting XI since joining RSL and the second time being in the 18 this year, after being named to the TOTM bench following Matchday 30.
With the buildup to Arango’s 100th career goal catching the headlines the past couple weeks in Salt Lake City, his 99th stole the show in Hollywood on Sunday night.
In a career so full of accolades, the 28-year-old is still reveling in firsts. Arango was given the captain’s armband at RSL for the first time, scored against his former Club, LAFC, for the first time, and was named in the MLS TOTM for the first time as an RSL player.
Arango was given a hero’s welcome when he returned to the stadium he won MLS Cup in back in 2022. He scored 30 MLS goals across two seasons in LA, but his decisive goal in the 72nd minute for RSL will prove to be especially memorable for Claret-and-Cobalt and the Black-and-Gold alike, albeit for different reasons.
Chicho’s name is up in lights for good reason following his Matchday 35 performance, but the rest of RSL’s cast deserves major credit as well. Rubio Rubin could be nominated for best supporting actor, delivering a picture perfect cross for Arango to head home, and so could goalkeeper Zac MacMath, who made seven saves to help RSL keep the shutout.
Manager Pablo Mastroeni displayed his tactical fluidity, shifting from a 4-4-2 and directing Jefferson Savarino to operate just below Arango with Diego Luna and Andres Gomez flanking on the left and right. This change allowed Savarino to get on the ball more often, where he finished the match with the highest passing percentage (83%), and also put the Venezuelan in front of the pressing line alongside Arango. Arango and Savarino’s pressing and defensive workrate helped keep LAFC at bay while the California side held long periods of extended possession.
Justen Glad, who was named to last week’s TOTM starting XI, then helped shore up the backline, leading RSL in interceptions (4), and blocks (3), fresh off signing a four year extension with the Club. RSL supporters love to remind the larger markets that in Salt Lake City, the team is the star, and the Claret-and-Cobalt’s workman-like performance from everyone involved only further validated their point.
The Club from Utah left the Golden State with another three points on the road, and second place in the hypercompetitive Western Conference all to itself.
With three games left in the MLS Regular Season, RSL’s path to playoffs just became a bit more clear. A win on Saturday against rivals Sporting KC will automatically secure RSL’s spot in the postseason for the third consecutive year - and the 13th occasion in the last 16 - while a plethora of other scenarios could also lift RSL to the playoff summit.
If fans want to go deeper into all the ways RSL can clinch, The Club put together an article updated weekly which can be found here, that explains each scenario in further detail.
The show goes on as Saturday's potential MLS playoff clinching match and last regular season home game approaches. Fans are encouraged to fill America First Field dressed in red to help enhance the raucous atmosphere the Riot is known for across the league. Tickets available here.
Below is MLSsoccer.com’s full Team of the Matchday for Week 35 organized in a 4-4-3 formation:
F: João Klauss (STL), Brandon Vazquez (CIN), Cristian Arango (RSL)
M: Facundo Torres (ORL), Ryan Gauld (VAN), Eduard Löwen (STL), Douglas Costa (LA)
D: Andreas Maxsö (COL), Tomás Avilés (MIA), Dave Romney (NE)
GK: Andre Blake (PHI)
Coach: Pat Noonan (CIN)
Bench: Roman Bürki (STL), Eriq Zavaleta (LA), Reed Baker-Whiting (SEA), Jonathan Osorio (TOR), Mateusz Klich (DC), Santiago Moreno (POR), Santiago Rodríguez (NYC), Cristian Espinoza (SJ), Georgios Koutsias (CHI)
The Last Home Regular Season Game of the Season!
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