Cristian Arango scores hat-trick in RSL’s win over Austin

MLS: Austin FC at Real Salt LakeJune 1, 2024; Sandy, Utah, USA; Real Salt Lake forward Cristian Arango (9) and Austin FC midfielder Jhojan Valencia (5) battle for the ball during the first half at America First Field. Mandatory credit: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

Cristian Arango scored his second hat trick of the season and third of his MLS career to take control of the league’s scoring race as Real Salt Lake extended its unbeaten streak to 13 league games with a 5-1 romp against Austin FC on Saturday evening.

Arango’s 14th, 15th and 16th goals pushed the Colombian three ahead of DC United’s Christian Benteke and four ahead of Miami’s Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.

Arango’s first of the night was his best, combining brilliant touch and vision to score on a perfectly weighted shot from midfield that went over Austin goalkeeper Brad Stuver and under the crossbar.

Anderson Julio added his fourth and fifth league goals as Salt Lake (9-2-6, 33 points) dominated from the start against an Austin team playing without leading scorer Sebastian Driussi.

Alex Ring converted a penalty in second-half stoppage time to give Austin (6-6-5, 23 points) a small consolation in his fourth away goal this season.

The visitors played their first match since Driussi was forced off with injury in a 2-0 home loss to Portland on Wednesday night and looked to sit deep against Salt Lake and attack on the counter.

But that tactic was largely challenged by Arango, whose first goal found the back of the net to spark a three-match Salt Lake match streak in 15 minutes.

Arango added his second and RSL’s fourth in the fifth minute of first-half stoppage time when he was unmarked at the back post and available to head Andrew Brody’s early diagonal ball past Stuver from close range.

Arango completed his scoring from the penalty spot in a complicated sequence that originally appeared to be a late goal for Austin’s Jader Obrian.

Instead, referee Alexis Da Silva spotted a handball on Austin’s Brendan Hines-Ike in the opposite penalty area during a video review of the sequence leading to Obrian’s finish and pointed to the spot.

Arango stuttered on his approach to the ball, causing Stuver to dive before sending a low finish in the opposite direction in the 71st minute. He left eight minutes later to a standing ovation and chants of “MVP!, MVP!” of the home fans.

Salt Lake had 21 shots, 11 of which were on target, while Austin had 10 and four, respectively. Stuver made five saves and Salt Lake’s Zac MacMath had three.

–Field-level media

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