The Fire's newest addition officially signed his MLS contract today and joined the team for Tuesday morning's training session. Juan Luis Anangonó didn't participate in full training but did light work and fitness on the side with Tony Jouaux. The Ecuadorian forward said he's not fully match fit at the moment but he's been working so it shouldn't be long before he's ready. "It's been about 25 days since the season ended in Argentina but I've been training with the national team trying to stay active but I'm not 100%. I think I'm at about 80% fit." he said at the conclusion of his first practice.
"He was playing and training with the national team in Ecuador," said coach Frank Klopas in addressing the player's fitness. "The thing is that he hasn't stopped so it's not like we're talking two months. He's been training so it's good. I'll get some feedback from Tony and get his idea and go from there. He looks pretty fit to me." Anangonó may be working his way back to full game fitness but he probably won't be available this weekend in Houston unless his visa is received and paperwork is completed by then.
Anagonó was presented with the chance to come to MLS after Fire officials approached his representatives a few weeks ago about a deal in the United States. "The Fire spoke to my management, and they spoke about a good opportunity to come here and decided to come to MLS," said Anangonó when asked about pursuing another contract in Ecuador. "I think it's a good league. It was a good opportunity to come here and do things right and play good soccer in a good league," he said. "First, the possibility of coming here to the US was a great opportunity that could open other doors for the future. That was my motivation for coming here".
Anangonó got good reports about MLS from Ecuadorian players Miller Bollaños, Osvaldo Minda, and Joao Plata who all spoke highly of the league. They felt MLS would be a good fit for him and suggested he make the move. He also conferred with the Ecuadorian coaching staff about the league and how making the move would affect his standing for selection going forward. "Yes, I've spoken to the national team's technical staff and they told me it was a good opportunity and if I did well here it would open doors for playing on the national team," he said.
Klopas wasn't ready to commit to starting him right away but does feel he brings a different element to the squad. "Everybody's got to earn the right to be on the field. He's a good player that's why we brought him here but he's got to earn that. He's got a lot of good qualities and he's a player that can impact our team," said Klopas. "He's a guy that can play high up the field. He's got pace and looks to get behind players. Physically he's strong and he's good in the air, that's one of his strengths".
Anangonó described himself as "fast, strong, and good in the air" and a player that can finish well at the forward spot while having the ability to adapt in any formation. "I've played in many alignments. I've played in 4-3-3, alone up top, 4-4-2. I don't have a preference for the type of game," he said. Klopas has the option to use him in several different combinations with Mike Magee and/or Chris Rolfe on the pitch. "With Chris if you get him around the goal he's good and he can combine. He can come underneath and he can play out wide. It gives us different flexibility. He's (Anangonó) different because he's more of a target player higher up the field as a pure forward that looks to get behind and use his pace and his strength. He can play to feet, he can play to depth. He just gives you a different element that will give the rest of the guys a little more space in the midfield. We have the ability now with his pace to stretch the opposing team," said the gaffer.
With the Fire on the outside of the playoff chase the club needs to mount a second half charge but it may be a few games before the newest player can make an impact. Anagonó says he's not feeling any pressure yet and is looking to fit in first. "I'm calm. I'm coming here to mesh with all the guys here and to be part of the group. I'm just going to try to work for the team and I'm hoping to do big things for the team," he said. "It's about the team. There isn't one guy that's the savior," said Klopas. "He's going to make us better but it's the team that gets you there".
Notes and more
- Speaking of the playoff chase, Klopas addressed the need to make up points quickly as the second half of the season is in full swing. "Time is running out. As every game goes by there's fewer games to play and we need points. In the second half we play a lot more teams within our conference and those are huge games. You can make up a lot of ground or fall further back," he said.
- The Fire will continue to look for reinforcements up until the transfer window closes on August 8 but he explained that the process isn't always clear cut as August approaches. "I think up to the last day we're going to be looking to see if there are opportunities to improve the team. Sometimes this late in the season it's a little bit more difficult. In Europe right now things are happening so there's more opportunity but for us you have to get players like Juan who have been training and have been with the national team. You don't want guys now, who take two months from a fitness standpoint to get ready then you're almost thinking about next year. If there's an opportunity within the league to add one more guy we'll be looking at but it's not always so easy with roster space and all that."
- Patrick Nyarko returned to full training after sufferring from strep throat this past weekend.
- Dilly Duka did not participate in full training but did some work. Klopas called his status "day to day".
- Guatemalan centerback Elias Vasquez is no longer with the club but Yamith Cuesta is still in training. "He (Cuesta) was here with us before and at this moment it was a better option from Vasquez," said Klopas of the decision to continue to look at Cuesta over Vasquez. "You look at some depth in that spot (centerback). You never know what's going to happen. We have some flexibility to move certain guys around. Jalil can play centerback. I think it's good when there's continuity in certain spots where guys can play and get more comfortable in that position. We're looking at it but I think we have other options where we can move guys in spots to give us some depth. It's a good thing to have guys that can play some different positions".