New Fire signing Anangonó hopes MLS challenge leads him to regular spot with Ecuador National Team
BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- Shortly after being unveiled as the newest member of the Chicago Fire, forward Juan Luis Anangonó made his first appearance at training Tuesday.
Having arrived to Chicago Sunday night and still awaiting his visa before being added to the team roster, the Ecuadorian striker did fitness tests with Conditioning Coach Tony Jouaux on his first day with the club.
Though he didn’t train in full with the team, the former Argentinos Juniors, Nacional and Barcelona man said he was excited for his new test in North America.
“It’s a good league and I like the kind of soccer being played here,” he said via translator. “I’m looking forward to the experiences and challenges I’m going to have now in MLS. I was motivated most by being able to play out of the country and keep moving. It was a chance for me to step outside of my comfort zone.”
Anangonó most recently played 90 minutes for Argentinos Juniors in a 1-0 win over Newells Old Boys on June 23 to help the side avoid demotion from the Argentine Primera.
Strengths and Fitness
Anangonó brings an intimidating 6-1 frame to the Fire and said he feels good about his ability to finish and his aerial play.
“He is a guy that plays higher up the field,” said Fire head coach Frank Klopas. “He’s got pace, he looks to get behind players, and he’s physically strong. And then he’s good in the air for sure, that’s one of his strengths.”
The 24-year-old forward hasn’t gone into offseason mode, having spent time training with the Ecuadorian national team since his last competitive match. Still, he admitted he’s not at 100 percent match fitness as he enters the team.
“I’m about 80 percent,” he said. “It’s been about 25 days since the league in Argentina finished up. I know I’m not quite there yet but I’ve definitely been doing workouts on the side and I’m looking forward to getting out there.”
Klopas echoed the player’s sentiments but signaled that as he waits for his visa, he’ll focus a bit more on fitness work.
“The thing is that he hasn’t stopped [for long]. It’s not like we are talking two months. He’s been training and stuff. [Today] he just did some running to see his level, to see where he’s at.
“From there we can see how we move along with him but we have some time before he gets his visa so we just want to make sure that if he’s a little bit behind we can do the right thing in this stage to bring him up to speed with the guys.”
While it seems unlikely Anangonó will receive clearance prior to Saturday’s game at Houston, the team is hopeful he’ll be available for selection when they travel to Philadelphia on August 3.
Even when he does become available for selection, Klopas indicated the player wouldn’t necessarily step right into the starting 11.
“Everybody’s got to earn that right to be on the field. He’s a good player, that’s why we brought him here. He’s got to earn that on the field for sure. He has a lot of good qualities that can impact our team and that’s why we brought him here.”
With Mike Magee sitting second in the MLS Golden Boot race and Chris Rolfe coming off a brace Saturday vs. D.C. United, the competition for spots up top is sure to heat up.
Additionally, with the team pushing back into the the MLS Cup playoff picture and readying for a U.S. Open Cup semifinal next month, the addition also provides Klopas with the ability to throw out different options up top based on the opponent.
Doing the Homework
Anangonó’s best year came in 2011 as he scored 30 goals across 72 matches for Ecuadorian side El Nacional. That performance led him to go on loan with Argentinos Juniors, where he tallied five goals across 32 matches, often playing alone up top.
In the wake of Anangonó's name being floated as a potential Fire target, Fire President of Soccer Operations Javier Leon said Saturday that the club was about to sign a young Designated Player out of Ecuador who was deemed as an up-and-coming talent for the future.
Leon also said the team had done extensive homework on the player, consulting with 2008 MLS MVP Guillermo Barros Schelotto as well as Ecuador’s national team staff.
Anangonó has come up in the Ecuadorian youth system, playing for the U-20 side at the 2009 CONMEBOL Championships. He also recently earned his first senior national team cap, coming on as an 88th minute sub in Ecuador’s 1-1 World Cup qualifying draw vs. Argentina on June 13 in Quito.
With him knocking on the door of the senior team, the 6-1 forward said he consulted with head coach Reinaldo Rueda and his staff about what a move to MLS would do in terms of his national team standing.
“Without a doubt I’ve talked to the coaches and technical staff and they’ve said it’s a great opportunity. They think it’s a great league and it’s going to give me a good opportunity to play with the national team.”
Likewise, Anangonó said he did his own homework on MLS and the Fire, consulting with fellow Ecuadorian players Oswaldo Minda (current Chivas USA) and Miller Bolanos (ex-Chivas USA) as well as Real Salt Lake’s Joao Plata.