LAFC is sending key forward Cristian Arango to Liga MX’s Pachuca

LAFC forward Cristian Arango points up while running next to midfielder Kellyn Acosta.
LAFC is sending forward Cristian Arango, left, to Liga MX’s Pachuca. Arango played a key role helping LAFC win the MLS Cup during the 2022 season.
(Michael Wyke / Associated Press)

LAFC shed another key part of its MLS-winning team Tuesday when it sent Colombian striker Cristian Arango to Pachuca of Mexico’s Liga MX on a transfer, while a deal that would have sent Galaxy defender Julián Araujo to Barcelona apparently unraveled at the last minute.

LAFC is expected to formally announce the Arango transfer, which has been verified by multiple sources, on Wednesday. The Galaxy, meanwhile, declined to comment on the proposed Araujo transfer, which, according to reports from Spain, was worth $4.3 million and covered multiple seasons. Barcelona had to finalize the deal before the La Liga transfer window closed Tuesday afternoon.

If the deal fizzled because of the timing or a paperwork issue, both sides could petition to have the transfer approved. Araujo, 21, played at the Barca Residency Academy in Arizona and trained at the team’s famed youth academy in Barcelona before signing with the Galaxy in 2018. A two-time MLS All-Star, Araujo has played in 100 regular-season games, starting 89 times. He made $678,750 last season, according to the MLS Players Assn., and is signed through 2025.


For LAFC, the loss of Arango, the team’s leading scorer in each of the last two seasons, could prove to be a serious hit to its quest to repeat as MLS champion. His 30 goals in 51 regular-season games since joining the team in August 2021 are second most in MLS over that span and third most in franchise history, trailing only Carlos Vela and Diego Rossi.

LAFC’s roster includes stars Carlos Vela and Gareth Bale, but its most important player has been Cristian Arango, hardly a household name.

Aug. 25, 2022

Arango scored 16 times last year during the regular season, helping LAFC to its second Supporters’ Shield, then twice more in the playoffs as LAFC won its first MLS Cup. Although terms of the deal with Pachuca were not disclosed, LAFC will get an unspecified transfer fee.

The team made the move in an effort to keep its payroll — $19 million last season — under the MLS salary cap, which was providing difficult given the raises, bonuses and other compensation it had to pay out after winning the championship.

Arango, 27, made $683,000 last season, the eighth-highest salary on the team, and had been vocal in seeking a new contract heading into this season, the final one of his three-year deal. LAFC reportedly rejected a $6.3-million offer for Arango from Saudi club Al-Ahli.

Still, the deal could create more problems than it solves. For starters, it’s unlikely LAFC will be able to sign a more productive striker in his prime for what Arango was making. And while the team has a capable stable of forwards left in Vela, Kwadwo Opoku, Denis Bouanga and the newly arrived Stipe Biuk, all four are more comfortable playing as wingers and not in the center, as Arango did.

Since beating the Philadelphia Union on penalty kicks in last November’s MLS Cup final, LAFC has bid farewell to midfielder Latif Blessing, a member of the club’s original roster in 2018, and winger Gareth Bale, whose goal deep in extra time tied the score and set up the penalty-kick shootout. The team also saw Ecuadoran World Cup midfielder Sebastián Méndez leave for Sao Paulo in Brazil, forward Cristian Tello sign with Al Fateh in Saudi Arabia and defender Sebastien Ibeagha, who played the entire 120-plus minutes in the MLS Cup final, jump to FC Dallas as a free agent.


LAFC won its first Major League Soccer title Saturday, defeating the Philadelphia Union on penalty kicks 3-0 at Banc of California Stadium.

Nov. 5, 2022

Bale and Tello had prorated contracts that, for salary cap purposes, were valued at more than $1.725 million last season.

However, it appears as if LAFC will retain José Cifuentes, who is a crucial part of the team’s midfield. Cifuentes, who was also a member of Ecuador’s World Cup team in Qatar, was long rumored to be headed to Europe, but a deal was never finalized. A source close to the player said he expects Cifuentes will spend this year with LAFC.