Chicho Arango's hat trick powers Real Salt Lake: "He sets the tone" 


MLS clubs, take note: never count out Real Salt Lake.

Down 1-0 in the 70th minute against St. Louis CITY SC, Designated Player and captain Chicho Arango put his team on his back, ripping off a hat trick to give RSL a statement 3-1 win and propel them into third place on the Western Conference table (3W-2L-1D; 10 points).

"I think Chicho's quality really shined through tonight," RSL head coach Pablo Mastroeni told reporters afterwards at America First Field. "I think, and oftentimes I say this to attacking players, when you commit to the defensive side of the ball, the soccer gods will reward you with some great attacking opportunities. And I think he took them."

"The first goal that he scored is world-class, right?" Mastroeni added. "... He's the driving force and everything we do with this group, he's the mental monster during training. He sets the tone on both sides of the ball. And I'm just so happy for him to have the game that he had, because it then represents the rest of the group."

Perhaps Arango was somewhat fortunate to be on the field after an off-ball incident was reviewed for a potential sending-off offense, but a red card was not given after he appeared to lash out at Tomas Totland.

The Colombian international certainly made the most of his opportunity. Playing in a more withdrawn role than his usual No. 9 position, Arango stayed on the field for a 21-minute hat-trick, his first for the Claret-and-Cobalt.

"I'm always very proud of the team, that they came out into the second half with a lot of character and coming out to look for the game," Arango said via translator after the match. "Pablo told me not to get frustrated by being down, that the first goal would come.

"As a forward, you're always looking to score goals," the summer 2023 signing and former LAFC talisman continued. "So after the first one, you obviously want to get the second one, and after the second one being a [penalty kick], putting your team in front and obviously looking for a hat trick."

With midfielder Pablo Ruiz out for the season with a knee injury, the weight and pressure on Arango has increased even more. He hasn't shied away from the role, though – he's embraced it.

With Arango leading from the front and getting on the scoresheet (he's tied on five goals with Dejan Joveljic and Luis Suárez in the Golden Boot presented by Audi race), RSL are quietly staking their claim in a wide-open Western Conference.

For Mastroeni, the reason is simple: "There's a locker room there that will do anything for Chicho."