How Cristian Arango became the key to LAFC’s playoff push

Unlike many soccer players, Cristian Arango is familiar with the concept of playoffs. Three times in his five seasons in the Colombian first division, Arango played for a club that qualified for the league’s post-season tournament.

And he found that success doesn’t always depend on which team has the best players.

“It’s the mentality,” said Arango, who is struggling with great chances of getting the LAFC into the MLS postseason this fall. “That’s what we worked for. God is responsible for our fate, but that’s what we work for. “

LAFC may not need divine intervention if they continue to play as they did on Tuesday when Arango’s 13th goal of the season came after Brian Rodríguez and Latif Blessing’s first-half results in a 3-0 win over Seattle Sounders. The win extended the team’s undefeated streak to five games of the season high and lifted the LAFC (12-12-8) to a playoff spot with two games remaining in the regular season.

And the team got more good news when former MVP Carlos Vela came on on the 78th minute and made his first appearance since August 21st.

The top 7 teams of the 13-person Western Conference qualify for the postseason and LAFC is now in the top 7 for the second time in the last three months. But the fact that the LAFC has a chance at all is thanks to Arango’s groundbreaking presence: Since joining from Colombia’s millionarios in early August, LAFC has 6-1-2 when it scores and 0-5-1 when he meets. T.

“I don’t think it’s me,” said Arango, almost as humble as he is talented, in Spanish. “This is because each of my teammates welcomed me and I adapted to them.

“My goals are not the product of my personality or the way I play. I owe that to my teammates who play a game and give me the ball so I can finish. It’s a team sport, not an individual sport. “

Maybe. But Arango is the one who does the most to make the team better.

“He’s never satisfied. He just keeps pushing, ”said defender Sebastien Ibeagha. “He’s playing incredibly well, but he’s still not happy with the way he plays. And he wants to help the team in every way. “

Arango, 26, came to MLS from one of Colombia’s most famous teams. He was recruited by former Colombian international Juan Pablo Ángel, a technical assistant and chief scout who helped identify and sign most of the eight South Americans on the LAFC squad.

The transfer fee was $ 2.5 million. For Arango, who scored 22 goals and six assists in 58 appearances with Millonarios, the MLS spotlight is not only welcome now but, as it can also be seen in Europe, could be even more helpful in the future.

“It’s a league that is developing well and that is attractive to players. It’s getting better every day, ”said Arango, who played for Aves and Tondela in Portugal for two seasons and wants to return to the continent one day.

“Everything with patience and work. If it comes, I would appreciate it, ”he said. “I’m not looking for it. I let my work speak for itself in the present. “

Arango isn’t the only member of his family who excelled in sports. Sister Cindy, 20, is a talented shooting guard for Medellín in the Colombian Superior League.

“Colombia doesn’t have a professional women’s basketball league, so it’s in the top tier there,” said Arango. “I never thought about it [basketball]. Football has been my passion since I was a child. “

However, his sister has one thing her brother wants: the number 10. This is the number that Pelé, Maradona, Kaká and Ronaldinho wore and the one that Lionel Messi wore. It is the jersey that goes to the team’s star player in football and that Arango wore in Bogotá with Millonarios.

At LAFC, the number belongs to Mexican star Carlos Vela, who broke the MLS single season scoring record in 2019 but has only started 19 games since then. Arango’s next two favorite numbers – 7 from midfielder Latif Blessing and 9 from striker Diego Rossi – were also unavailable upon his arrival. So he took # 29.

“This is my son’s date of birth,” he said. “I do not like it. I wear it with pride. “

He and Vela have only played together twice this season. So if Vela leaves this winter as expected, would Arango take on both his number and his position?

“Well,” he replied modestly with a smile, “let’s hope he stays with us as long as possible.”

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