Unlike many soccer players, Cristian Arango is familiar with the concept of playoffs. Three times in his five seasons in Colombia’s first division, Arango played for a club that qualified for the league’s postseason tournament.
And success, he found, wasn’t always determined by which team had the best players.
“It’s the mentality,” said Arango, who is battling long odds to get LAFC to the MLS postseason this fall. “This is what we’ve been working for. God is in charge of our destiny, but this is what we’re working for.”
Divine intervention might prove to be LAFC’s best hope. Heading into Tuesday’s home match with the Western Conference-leading Seattle Sounders, LAFC was two places and three points out of the seventh and final playoff spot with three games left. A loss in any of those games could keep LAFC out of the postseason for the first time in the team’s four-year history.
But the fact LAFC has any chance at all is a credit to Arango’s intervention; since arriving from Colombia’s Millonarios in early August, he has scored a team-high 12 goals in 14 games, including six in the last 10 days.
LAFC is 5-1-2 when he scores and 6-11-6 when he doesn’t.
“I don’t think it’s because of me,” Arango, who is almost as humble as he is talented, said in Spanish. “It’s because of every one of my teammates who welcomed me and me adapting to them.
“My goals are not the product of my personality or the way I play. It’s thanks to my teammates who make a play and give me the ball so I can finish. It is a team, not an individual sport.”
Maybe. But Arango is the individual who does the most to make the team better.