Juan Luis Anangono may not be close to the top of the MLS scoring charts, but last Saturday's game against Toronto FC showed that the 24-year-old Chicago Fire forward may be on the cusp of putting the ball in the back of the net consistently.
Anangono forced an acrobatic diving save out of Stefan Frei in the seventh minute, hit the underside of the crossbar in the 80th and banged the outside of the post with an 84th-minute blast.
“I do have a bitter taste in my mouth that I couldn't score,” he told MLSsoccer.com through a translator after the game. “I feel really good these last couple of weeks. I'm just getting acclimated with the style of play.”
Anangono was brought to Chicago on the tail end of Designated Player forward Sherjill MacDonald's failed stint with the Fire, a new target forward who the front office hoped would fulfill the expectations that were once heaped on the Dutchman.
Anangono has only scored two goals in 13 games, but he impressed coaches enough to claim a starting spot from Chris Rolfe about a month into his Chicago tenure. As his teammates have become more familiar with Anangono, they've begun to find him in dangerous spots regularly.
“He's a threat. He's creating chances,” coach Frank Klopas said. “He brings something different to our team because of his ability physically. He gives a lot of pace to stretch opposing defenses out, he's a threat to always because he can get in behind, he's very good in the air, he gives us a different dimension in the box defensively and offensively. As a forward, you want someone creating opportunities, and he's done that. So hopefully those chances will be going in soon.”
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Fire playmakers have had no problem feeding Anangono the last few games as he's learned to beat MLS defenses. Now, as they try to beat New York in the teams’ season finale Sunday (5 pm ET, UniMas) and make a playoff run, they hope he can make the tiny adjustments needed for his close chances to go inside the posts instead of off of them.
"There was great awareness [of his position], he made good runs and people put the ball right there for him,” fellow forward Patrick Nyarko said. “It's unfortunate that you're going to get these kinds of games where you hit it well and it still comes off the post. Hopefully when we really need it, it will go in."