Chicago Fire ready to unleash Juan Luis Anangono's full potential in playoff race

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – In the Chicago Fire's 3-2 win over New England two weeks ago, Juan Luis Anangonó showed he had the ability to score in MLS with a 30th-minute goal.

With his second start in a row in last Saturday's 3-0 loss to Columbus, coach Frank Klopas showed his intention of making him a regular starter. And despite the scoreline, Klopas was pleased with the display by the Ecuadorian forward, who almost scored when his 37th minute header knocked off the post.

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“He did well in that game,” Klopas said. “I think he helped us also on set pieces. I think that's an area [Columbus were] really good at, with their two big center backs. Listen, it was a little bit difficult playing short-handed … I thought he did extremely well.”

After the Fire paid a transfer fee to acquire him from Ecuadorian club El Nacional, Anangonó always seemed confident he'd find significant playing time once he regained his form and fitness after a layoff.

“In the beginning, I just wasn't fitness-wise ready,” he told MLSsoccer.com through a translator. “I wasn't playing a lot so I didn't have a rhythm. As I've played more, I've become more comfortable and I'm in better shape.”

Forward Mike Magee was the beneficiary of Anangonó's strong play two weeks ago when the 6-foot-1 striker held off a New England defender to spring Magee free for an open goal.

After a four-game period of time in which Anangonó was used exclusively as a substitute, Magee thinks the Fire have unleashed an important weapon as they try to climb back into a playoff spot with five games left.

“I'm happy for him. I think this league is really hard to come into,” Magee told MLSsoccer.com. “You see a lot of South American guys that had transition periods that are really long. I don't want to jinx him, but I feel like he's already transitioned into the league and he knows how to be successful.”

Anthony Zilis covers the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com.