Real Salt Lake receives offensive boost with MLS return of forward Chicho Arango

Cristian "Chicho" Arango returns to MLS.
Cristian "Chicho" Arango returns to MLS. / Jam Media/GettyImages

He’s back! After a four-month stint away playing for Pachuca in Liga MX, Cristian “Chicho” Arango returns to Major League Soccer as a Designated Player for Real Salt Lake.

The 28-year-old has signed with the Western Conference side through 2025, with an option for 2026. 

Arango’s previous MLS experience with LAFC, where he won Newcomer of the Year in 2021, will be helpful for a struggling Salt Lake side lingering bottom tier of the West as they sit on 20 points through 17 games played at 11th place.

“Any time you get the opportunity to bring a player in of Chicho's quality, it's a massive day for the club. Any club in MLS would be thrilled to have him," said Elliot Fall, Salt Lake’s general manager.

“I believe that this is a transformational piece for our roster and a piece that is going to help us in many, many ways. It's going to help a lot of our young players, he's going to alleviate some of the burden on the group. I think that this is a piece that will have massively positive effects for a long time.”

Arango is set to join the impressive RSL attack, which already boasts DP's Jefferson Savarino and Damir Kreilach. Now, alongside U22 Initiative player and winger Andres Gomez, adding Arango will bring new life into an already stacked Salt Lake front line.

Head Coach Pablo Mastroeni shared his excitement about Arango joining the team in a recent interview with Apple TV's whip-around show MLS 360 after their 0-0 draw against NYCFC, where they had many goal-scoring chances but couldn't convert in the final third.

“I think tonight's a good example of why a player of his caliber is so important for us," Mastroeni said.

“We had a lot of good looks in front of goal and when he's playing, he provides not only good hold-up, he runs in behind, but he's got a knack for being at the right place at the right time and his finishing is superb. So I think a game like tonight where we create enough, a player like Chico more than likely finishes one of them.”

Mastroeni is keen to have the striker on the field. Unfortunately, Arango won't be eligible for selection by RSL until the opening of the MLS Secondary Transfer Window on July 5th. For now, the Colombian will have to sit on the sidelines as he wills his new team to victory.

“I want a title this season, not next season,” Arango said in his introductory press conference. “I think we have a good team here, we have the experience, there's honestly no excuse. We just have to continue to work hard and work hard together to get that title as soon as possible.”

RSL is close to achieving its goal of winning silverware with only two MLS matches left before the August 23rd US Open Cup semifinal against Houston Dynamo.

“We've been building up to this moment for a long time,” general manager Fall continued.

“We've put a lot of effort and brought a lot of pieces together on our roster over the last several years. All along, [it was] knowing at the end of the day we needed a striker, we needed one more piece. When we realized that Chicho may be available and we may be able to get something done, we jumped right on it.”

Arango will be eligible to take the field for the Claret & Cobalts as soon as July 8th, as Salt Lake takes on Orlando City at home.