BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – Their size suggests otherwise, but don't be deceived – the Chicago Fire have had a corner kick problem this season.
Not only did forward Juan Luis Anangonó's re-directed header off of a Mike Magee corner last Saturday break open a crucial game against FC Dallas, it ended a streak of futility that is unusual for a team that can pack plenty of height in the box.
When the ball trickled into the corner of the goal in the 25th minute, it marked the first time a Fire player has scored directly off of a corner kick this season. The Fire added another when Jalil Anibaba scored from outside the penalty area, and Chicago was the better team offensively and defensively on set plays in their 3-2 victory.
“Juan deserves a lot of credit, his goal was really great,” midfielder Jeff Larentowicz told MLSsoccer.com. “Frank [Klopas, head coach] said before the game, we have to be smart on resets, we have a lot of big guys who are good in the air.”
Throughout the season, the Fire have steadily been finding their groove on corners.
After losing Pável Pardo, who took corners last season, the Fire didn't find an every-day, set-piece man until Magee arrived in May.
“The difference between this year and last year is we always knew Pável was going to take it, and if Pavel didn't take it, then Danny [Paladini] was taking them,” center back Austin Berry told MLSsoccer.com. “We had their timing down, we knew those guys very well, and this year there were a lot of different guys taking them. Now that we've had Mike Magee in for the last couple of months [we’re] getting his timing and getting his service. If you have timing down, it's just about competing to the ball.”
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As Chicago have grown more and more comfortable with Magee's service, the results are getting better and better. And with five starting field players who stand at least six-feet tall, Chicago have always had more than enough height to be an above average corner kick threat.
Anangonó has also added a different dimension in the penalty area as a ball-winner with a nose for goal. Coupled with his strike partner's service, the Fire hope they turn a weakness into the strength.
“Juan is a very good player in the area,” defender Gonzalo Segares told MLSsoccer.com. "He's a guy that can jump very high, and he has very good ability with headers and corner kicks and with set pieces, so that's a very big plus for us as well. He has been a guy that has made us dangerous on set pieces. I think teams are starting to pay more attention to him, and other guys are getting free.”