BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – The broken plates had been cleaned up from the Chicago Fire's postgame celebration after Saturday's 3-2 come-from-behind win over New England, a Greek tradition that coach Frank Klopas used to fire up his team, and all that was left was an excited locker room.
A big part of the reason for that celebration, both literally and figuratively, was 6-foot-1, 170-pound forward Juan Luis Anangonó, who scored and played a key role in another goal in the come-from-behind win, which put the Fire into a playoff spot for the first time this season.
“It was Greek night, so I told him, 'If you scored, you get to break plates,'” Klopas said with a smile, "and I gave him like 10 plates in the locker room to break, so I think it was big motivation for him."
“I think that the one goal, he took very well, his movement off the ball was great and then he finished, and then he had a couple of opportunities, and I think he's only going to get better. Then I think, in any new environment, [it takes time] to adjust to the lifestyle, to get comfortable. Every game, every day, every week in training he's been getting better and better.”
Anangonó took six shots on Saturday and was involved in several goalscoring opportunities in the Designated Player's most active game to date.
In the 30th minute, the Ecuadorian received a pass from Joel Lindpere at the edge of the penalty area, took a touch and surprised goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth with a quick shot to score his first goal in a Fire uniform.
“He was involved in a big way,” Magee said. “His goal was huge to tie it up the first time and helped on my goal tied it up the second time. He put his body in front of a defender who was just going to clear, to shield it just so I have a chance. If he doesn’t do that I’m not scoring a goal. He was great today.”
After coming on as a substitute during the last four games, Anangonó proved he could be a difference-maker in a starting role. While a permanent starting spot may be difficult to obtain with 2012 team MVP Chris Rolfe holding down a forward spot for most of the season, Anangonó seems happy with his standing and his adjustment to his new league and lifestyle.
“I’m very happy with the consistency of the team and I’m happy with the work that was done on the field to come back and get the win tonight,” Anangonó said. “It always takes a little bit of time to get acclimated to a new lifestyle, but I thank everyone here at the Chicago Fire and Section 8 supporters because they’ve been so great to me.
"Every day I feel better and more involved with the team and it shows with my performance on the field.”