Newly-signed Ecuadoran striker Juan Luis Anangono is likely to make his debut for the Fire in Saturday’s critical road match against the Philadelphia Union.
The club announced late Thursday that Anangono, who hadn’t completed the necessary paperwork to play in last Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Houston, obtained his P1 Visa and International Transfer Certificate. He needed both before he could play in a Major League Soccer match, and coach Frank Klopas added Agangono to the roster for the trip to Philadelphia.
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The Fire has high hopes for Anangono, who was a goal-scoring threat for Barcelona and El Nacional in Ecuador and Argentinos Juniors in Argentina before opting to come to MLS. Before heading to Chicago he earned his first national team cap, playing two minutes for Ecuador in a 1-1 draw vs. Argentina in a June 6 World Cup qualifying match.
Anangono agreed to a two-year deal with an option for a third year when he signed prior to the Houston trip. He will be a Designated Player by MLS standards because the Fire had to pay a transfer fee to get him. His availability is just one of the positives for the Fire going into the third meeting of Eastern Conference rivals this season.
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Sean Johnson has returned from national team duty and will be in goal. He was with the U.S. national team in its run to the CONCACAF Gold Cup title throughout July while backup Paolo Tornaghi filled in. Midfielders Dilly Duka and Alex also recovered enough from injuries to return to training this week. Even long-ailing defender Steven Kinney was back on the pitch, so the Fire has no players on the injured list.
Also, the Fire should be well-rested. Only striker Mike Magee participated in Wednesday’s dreary MLS All-Star Game in Kansas City. He came in for the second half of a 3-1 loss to AS Roma. The Italian powerhouse had the MLS All-Stars blanked until conceding a goal in second-half stoppage time.
On the negative side, the Fire lost a coin toss conducted by the U.S. Soccer Federation this week and can’t host the final of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. The Fire will face D.C. United in the semifinals at Toyota Park on Wednesday. If the Fire gets by that one it will be on the road against either the Portland Timbers or Real Salt Lake in the final.
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If Portland wins its Wednesday semifinal the final will be on Sept. 24. If RSL advances the final will be on Oct. 1. Neither Portland nor RSL has ever reached an Open Cup final. The Fire has done it six times, winning the Cup in four of them.
Before the Open Cup future is decided the Fire will have a stern match to keep in playoff contention in MLS. Philadelphia (9-6-7) won back-to-back, home-and-home meetings against the Fire by 1-0 scores on May 11 and May 18. The Union is fourth in the Eastern Conference with 34 points in 22 matches, the Fire seventh with 25 in 20. Only five teams make postseason play after the 34-game regular season.
A matchup of two of the Golden Boot contenders provides a sidelight to Saturday’s match, the last meeting of the regular season between the clubs. Magee is tied for the lead with Vancouver’s Camilo Sanvezzo. Both have 13 goals. Philadelphia’s Jack McInerney is fourth with 10, two of them coming as game-winners in the first two meetings with the Fire two months ago.