Fire hoping Anangonó can deliver

The Fire have apparently made a move to bolster the squad with an international striker during the July transfer window and are close to finalizing a deal for 24 year old Ecuadorian Juan Luis Anangonó. It's not the high profile acquisition that many had hoped for and it's not exactly the established impact player with a proven record of success that is probably needed to elevate the club into more than just a playoff contender. What it is, is another relatively low risk Designated Player gamble with a forward who isn't a sure thing as an impact player by any means. The major difference this time is that Anangonó is young enough to have an upside and has had at least one season where he produced goals in large numbers. He has a chance to become that impact player.

His best year came in 2011 with Ecuadorian side El Nacional where he scored 22 goals over 45 contests. That was it in terms of impressively big seasons. He followed that up with 8 tallies over 28 matches in 2012 before being loaned out to Argentine club Argentinos Juniors. In his lone season there (teams play 2 phases similar to Mexico) he scored 5 times over 32 appearances. It's not exactly the kind of production that gets anyone worked up with excitement and it's difficult to say how his game will translate to MLS but as always we'll have to wait and see how he adjusts before making a final judgement on the move. Without the benefit of watching Ecuadorian soccer and not seeing many international acquisitions in live action outside of the "big" leagues that we're all exposed to in the States we should wait before making a snap judgement on whether or not he's worthy of a DP deal.  We can however, take a look at what we do know.

The spotlight will certainly be on Anangonó to produce in the same manner that it has been on last year's mid-season attacking addition, Sherjill MacDonald. The Designated Player tag ensures that the individual is occupying a considerable amount of budget space and capital and therefore needs to produce in a manner equivalent to the resources expended. Each DP coming into the league is a gamble but some clubs have rolled the dice much better than others with much more at stake in terms of monetary investment. Low(er) risk, high reward isn't a bad idea but it's not something the Fire have had success with when it comes to DP's recently.

Anangonó isn't coming cheaply as the Fire is paying a significant transfer fee for his services but his cost obviously isn't in the realm of marquee players like Robbie Keane and Thierry Henry. His salary is apparently below the $368,750.00 mark which would make him a DP on pay rate alone. Instead the transfer fee pushes him into that level. Expectations were raised in March of 2012 when owner Andrew Hauptman assured fans that there wouldn't be any hesitation to spend the money for a "striker at the price of Robbie Keane" if the technical staff was able to present him with a player that was capable of making a significant impact. “What I say to them always is: ‘Bring me one. Bring me an impact player that has the qualities that are going to help you succeed,’” Hauptman said at the time. “That’s all I can do. Then it’s up to them to come up to me and say, ‘OK, we have one.’ I’ll say, ‘Go for it.’ There’s nothing more or less complicated about it than that.”

Despite a run at Humberto Suazo, it appears the technical staff hasn't been able to do that. Instead smaller gambles like MacDonald, Alvaro Fernandez, and now Anangonó have been made. Who knows, the latter may turn out to be that missing piece since he's virtually unknown to anyone outside of South American football and those who scouted him for the club here. If he is that guy, Guillermo Petrei and Javier Leon should be lauded for finding that diamond in the rough at a relatively young age without spending outlandish dollars on a high profile international striker. If he's not the guy, and he follows the same path of minor success leading to eventual disfavor over a short period of time then questions should rightfully be raised about consistently lackluster DP signings. Those questions lie beneath the surface in every sport, it's the nature of the business and more so in MLS where the margin of error is very slim given tight budget restrictions.

Even if he does turn out to be a player who will make a substantial contribution on the field immediately (and with DP's we shouldn't be guessing), he's still not a guy who will move the needle off the pitch. With attendance stagnant and mainstream attention almost non-existent in Chicago the Fire need to make a bold move at some point in order to re-establish a footprint in the market. This is the single biggest reason why national writers like Grant Wahl rank the Fire lower and lower each offseason when it comes to ambitious intent. With all due respect to Mike Magee and what he's accomplished in the last month, he's not a guy whose picture the club can hang on the marquee and grab the attention of a sports crazy city like Chicago. Neither is Juan Anangonó.

MLS clubs can win without a huge marquee name however. It's been done in the past and it's not a vital necessity for putting together a consistent winner. Real Salt Lake has proven it can be done without a huge payroll although both Alvaro Sabario and Javier Morales are now considered DP's. Neither one of them are "Keane money" players but both continue to produce at a high level in MLS. If the Fire can find players of that caliber who are consistent top performers then the high priced DP isn't as important. Winning, after all is what really matters and what will draw attention in Chicago even without a huge star. That marquee name will be what keeps the casual observer engaged and mass media involved though. Suazo, for example would have made a massive impact on and off the field.

We shouldn't be having the same conversation about finding an attacker capable of making a significant impact at this time come July of 2014. Time will tell if we are or not. Anangonó might be the right guy to complement what Magee and Rolfe do up front and improve the club's standing on the pitch. Off the field may be another discussion.

Let's wait and see.

Scouting Anangonó

There's not much to be had in terms of background and information on the Fire's newest addition but this six minute highlight reel (there are others out there) shows a portion of his best moments at El Nacional. Here are my amateur observations, which I'll preface by saying that I haven't watched him live or for a full match:


  • Gets himself into position with smart runs
  • Good size for a target man at 6'-1"
  • Good pace for a bigger player
  • Clever in the box, can put away chances with a clear look
  • Appears to be good in the air
  • Has been capped by Ecuador (1) in a qualifier against Argentina this past June


  • Most of his goals in the clips are helped by simply atrocious defending rather than by individual effort
  • There doesn't seem to be much to indicate how he plays in combination or how good a passer he is
  • Very right footed
  • A majority of the "highlights" show tap in goals - poachers are fine but he's gotta be more than that
  • Can he adjust to life outside of Ecuador? Anongonó is still young and his only successful professional experience includes stints with Ecuadorian sides Barcelona and El Nacional. He struggled in one season in Argentina and just two weeks ago told media that he was unhappy at Juniors and wanted to return home to Barcelona. Those talks fell through. Failure to adjust to a new league and country all together can often times be the downfall of young footballers. The Fire have conducted extensive background investigation and apparently have done some homework but this should be a concern.
  • Barcelona finished no higher than 3rd in his time there and as low as 9th.
  • El Nacional finished fourth in his biggest season of 2011
  • Argentinos Juniors just missed being relegated last season. In short, he hasn't played for a winner.
  • A supposed deal with Chievo in Italy's Serie A in 2012 also never materialized


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  • Guys I wish I was excited about this signing. To be honest if he can just run fast he will be a Hugh improvement over the Big Mac.

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    Considering Mac has 0 goals in 13 MLS games and nearly 600 minutes I think the bar is not very high at the moment.

  • Chris Rolfe has been voted as MLS Player of the Week.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:


    But, if the goal is to foster competition for the starting 11... consider it, erm, fostered?

  • For a second I thought he was from THE Barcelonas youth system ...not Ecuadors tribute team to Barca

    Meet the new DP same as the old DP

  • If he turns out to be a failure it would seem to diminish the future of Frank and Leon with the Fire. Hope he works out for everyone, too bad
    he wasn't here earlier in the season, will probably take a season and a half to get a real grasp of his ability unless he's a total flop, which means another wait and see season for 2014.

  • In reply to lonecoyote:

    If McDonald, Fernandez, Puppo, Robayo haven't gotten these guys fired this guy surely won't either. Based on histroy the Fire should hedge their bets and start thinking which team they will loan him out to if he doesn't pan out

  • Can we get Zelaya too?

  • In reply to Ufficio:

    Zelaya actually expressed some interest in MLS this weekend. His contract is up in December.

  • I am super depressed. Didn't old Leon say that they had researched this guy out. All we need is a player that is homesick.

  • i look forward to seeing this cat play, he seems to have some solid potential. i am disappointed by the fire's player strategy and lack of big ticket signings lately. if this guy doesn't work out, to they revert to some bigger signings at last? here's hoping this question doesn't have to be answered.

  • In reply to Drew:

    Amen to that! Eventually one of these gambles should surely work out, although Alex didn't turn out too badly and is still young enough to give us hope he'll still be even better than we've seen thus far. It's easier to be optimistic when they bring in someone young enough we can reasonably hope their best years may still be coming.

  • Its sad that so many have accepted this mediocrity from the Fire. Too much "I hope this guy turns out" and not enough "thats it". The Fire have set the bar too low for so long that the fans are becoming accepting of it. Would LA or Red Bulls tolerate Alex or Anongono as their big time signing. Once there was a big time MLS team who won many chamionships and have a nice set of stars on their jersey. However their fans accepted the mediocrity and we just beat them 4-1. Fire fans, looking at DC United is like looking at the future of this team.

  • In reply to MikeRUZE:

    I think most of us agree with you. But the Fire are committed to this cheap strategy. Although most Fire fans have gone along with it and are going cheap (buy less tickets & kit) just to get with the program, we can still hope! And after so many failures, you have to think we are due for a little luck!

    Maybe they're right. It's been a working formula for the Chicago Cubs for a few years now.

  • If MacDone's problem was really a problem with the team - lack of service, as some have claimed - then there's no reason to think this guy can do any better. There's very little evidence from his video to show him creating, as Guillermo pointed out, and none showing him capable of holdup play or threatening outside the box. In fact, there's almost no evidence of his ability to shoot, to volley or half-volley, to strike a dead ball... Hopefully the FO has the same questions and has looked into them, along with his passing, but their record speaks for itself. And I have to ask: Ecuador? Not a big footballing nation, really. Granted they made the WC finals in '02 and '06, and are positioned well in qualifying for Brazil, but there's not a strong history there. For all I know, they had a golden generation that achieved some success in the mid-oughts. Their current lineup features some guys in Mexico, 1 each at Man U and in Holland, some in the Middle East and Russia, a couple maybe in Argentina. The rest are in Ecuador which we do not, as Guillermo said, we do not hear much about. Not a really imposing roster on paper. One cap with that squad is a nice honor, but not much to sing about.

    So what is his role supposed to be in the bigger picture, assuming that 1) he does not light it up right away and 2) he sticks around, does not pout because of lack of playing time/ dislike of management, desire to be traded to some other team, etc? Does the Fire see him as the guy who can take over as Rolfe and Magee diminish with age? He doesn't seem to be the kind of big powerful center forward that we were promised with MacDone, and he's obviously not the kind of creator who is going to link the midfield with the attack, which would make up for our lack of wing creativity in Nyarko's absence.

    I just get the impression that there's no overall plan for what this team is supposed to look like. It's like going to Goodwill and picking clothes off the shelf because they happen to be a bargain, and then getting home and realizing that they don't really go together.

    And then there's the issue of visibility in the Chicago and national sports market, as in zero visibility.

  • In reply to Modibo:

    he certainly comes to us as an unknown, and there are plenty of questions about his play until we see him w/our own eyes in a live match. but given that he's 24 and i'm assuming in good shape (a 24 yr old soccer players has to be in good shape...right?), it's not fair to compare him to sherjill. he created his own bag o' s***. magee has been playing with the same team as Big Mac, so it's not like the right player can't finish with the current squad's service.

    as for ecuador, i'd say it has been doing really well lately, and obviously plays in a much tougher region than the states, so i wouldn't discount this signing b/c he's from there. sure, it's a small country, but their national team is no pushover.

    i do agree that there doesn't seem to be much of a plan. i think the plan is to get the best players at the cheapest price and go from there and let frank try to figure it out.

  • In reply to Drew:

    I'm not discounting the signing because the guy's from Ecuador, I'm saying you can't call this a great signing because he has one cap from a second tier SA side. Now, I wouldn't say that one cap from Italy or Germany or Brazil (etc etc) was something to sing about either, just that the one cap proves even less than it would for a 24 yo player from Brazil, Argentina, or Uruguay for example - regardless of where those countries stand in WC Qualifying at this particular moment in time.

  • In reply to Modibo:

    Dude, don't dis Ecuador! Third in qualifying at the home stretch of WCQ is impressive. Maybe he is learning something from Chucho Benitez!

  • In reply to Modibo:

    I know the Club World Cup isn’t taken seriously by many, but Ecuadorian side LDU Quito was the 2008 runner-up (losing to Man U 0-1). My brother-in-laws, who are Ecuadorian, joke that Alexis Lalas could never hack it in Ecuador, as evident in his loan to ES Emelec in 1997 (who are, as a side note, archrivals to Anangonó’s first club, Barcelona SC. Though they play in “lesser” leagues now, both Jefferson Montero and Felipe Caicedo had successful stints in La Liga, respectively at Real Betis and Levante. Chucho Benitez could have made another move to Europe, but he instead went for the $$$.

  • In reply to UffyEdo:

    Puppo scored two goals for Quito this season so they must be good. ;)

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    Watch out, royal baby, you're going to lose lots of headlines in Chicagoland.

  • In reply to Modibo:


  • In reply to Jeff Krause:

    okay....that was funny

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    Count me in the not-impressed-club. Chicago should have had the ambition to pull the trigger on Forlan when he was available.

  • In reply to waam:

    Sounds like he doesn't want to play in Toronto so maybe there's still a chance.


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