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OPINION: Real Salt Lake on a tear In the MLS

Tribune News Service
Real Salt Lake midfielder Maikel Chang (16) keeps a ball away from Las Vegas Lights FC defender Luke Stauffer (4) during the first half of a soccer match at Cashman Field, Wednesday, April 26, 2023, in Las Vegas.

Real Salt Lake faced off against Austin FC on June 1 in a Western Conference showdown, bringing them to a 13-game winning streak.

Riding a 12-game unbeaten streak, RSL, led by MVP candidate and goal-scoring leader Christian “Chicho” Arango, was determined to extend their success. Arango, who had already scored 13 goals this season, added three more to his tally, bringing him up to 16 goals on the year. His performance was complemented by teammate Anderson Julio, who scored two goals, leading to a dominant 5–1 victory.

The Colombian striker opened the scoring in the 16th minute with an incredible goal from half-field, a feat that quickly gained acclaim on social media as a potential “goal of the year.” This early goal set the tone for the match, and Arango continued to showcase his skill with another goal just before halftime, contributing to a commanding 4–0 lead at the break. Julio’s two goals further solidified RSL’s control over the game.

A pivotal moment came in minute 71 when a Video Assistant Referee check overturned an Austin goal due to a handball, resulting in a penalty for RSL. Arango converted the penalty to complete his hat trick, putting him just one goal short of Alvaro Saborio’s regular season record of 17 goals for RSL. Although Austin managed to score a consolation goal in second-half stoppage time, it did little to dampen RSL’s celebratory mood.

This victory marked Real Salt Lake’s 13th consecutive game without defeat, their longest streak since 2010 when they went 18 games unbeaten. The team now sits firmly in first place in the Western Conference, 3 points clear of Los Angeles Football Club, boasting the league’s best goal differential at plus-17.

“We haven’t won anything yet,” Head coach Pablo Mastroeni said, emphasizing the need for continued hard work and vigilance. “Every game from here on out is going to be very difficult,” Mastroeni said. “Teams are going to prepare for us differently, so the onus is on us to be one step ahead.”

RSL has a two-week break before a hectic schedule of three matches in eight days, starting with an away game against C.F. Montreal on June 15. This will be followed by another road match against Kansas City and a homecoming at America First Field against the LA Galaxy on June 22. The team’s recent success has set high expectations, and fans eagerly anticipate their continued pursuit of glory in the MLS season.

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Collyn Cowles
Collyn Cowles, Sports editor

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