Should we add Juan Luis Anangonó to the list of failed Chicago Designated Players?

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Cuauhtémoc Blanco is one of the most successful Designated Players in Major League Soccer history. Scoring 16 times in 62 games over the course of three seasons, the Mexican international was more than an impact player on the field. He raised Chicago’s profile off of it.

The rest of the Fire’s Designated Players have been failures: A series of short-term, no reward moves that have created this huge divide on the Fire’s DP record. On one side is Blanco, who in so many ways epitomizes the original vision of what big-ticket items could bring to Major League Soccer. On the other is players like Nery Castillo, Álvaro Fernández, Freddie Ljundberg, Sherjill MacDonald, Frederico Puppo, and Árevalo Rios – a talented group, but one where every member failed to have a significant impact with Chicago.

The latest member of that group: Juan Luis Anangonó. As the club announced today, the Ecuadorian forward has been sent to LDU Quito on a six-month loan. While the possibility of a return wasn’t ruled out, there’s a good chance the Fire’s latest Designated Player has seen his last minute with the club.

From the Fire’s website:

“Both the club and Juan were looking for an option for him to gain consistent playing time,” said Fire head coach and Director of Soccer Frank Yallop. “The loan has been in the works for a while now and both parties agreed that it is best that Juan return to Ecuador for the next six months and continue to play full matches. We’re looking forward to keeping tabs and monitoring his progress.”

With the emergence of Quincy Amarikwa up top, Anangonó had been relegated to an impact sub’s role, with 11 of his 15 appearances coming off the bench. In 470 minutes, he’d only scored two goals; one goal every 2.6 (90-minute) games.

That’s decent production for a backup, assuming that backup is making backup wages. For a Designated Player, it’s a reason to get him off the roster.

Unfortunately for Chicago, those rates were actually improvements on 2013’s performance. After signing in the middle of the season, Anangonó made 13 appearances, nine starts (840 minutes), and only scored twice: One goal every 4.7 (90-minute) games.

To get back to the headline, can we add Agangonó’s name to the Castillos and MacDonalds of the Chicago world? With the door technically open to a return, that may be pretty premature, but with a qualifier, we can take care of that problem: To this point, Anangonó’s record looks right at home. He’s earned his place among the collection of disappointments Chicago’s given the DP label.

So what’s going on with the Fire? Why do they keep falling into this trap? What are they doing that other teams aren’t?

Maybe it’s not that they’re doing something different as much as they’re doing it more often. They’re not the only team that’s spent big on low-production, veteran forward from overseas hoping they’ll shine in Major League Soccer, but usually, people who produce in MLS were also producing before they arrived. While there are exceptions in each category (Jerry Bengtson one way, Fanendo Adi the other), players like Marco Di Vaio and Tim Cahill were scoring goals before their planes hit the ground. Kris Boyd and Hamdi Salihi weren’t. Unfortunately, Chicago keeps going back to that well.

The other commonality is the mid-season aspect of most of these moves, whether they’re signings (MacDonald, Castillo, Anangonó, etc.) or trades (Ljundberg, Fernández). If you’re not willing to spend big on a player that’s consciously choosing Major League Soccer (obvious ones here: Beckham, Henry), you’re left sifting through players who see MLS as a fallback plan. For Frank Rost and Mista, Major League Soccer may have been more the option than an option.

With Yallop now calling the shots in Chicago, hopefully there’s a new outlook. Unless these strategies are baked into the walls in Bridegview, the former San Jose boss should break this string of disappointing choices.

Unfortunately for Yallop, the Fire are no longer acting in a space where only a few teams could afford Designated Players. Before he released Anangonó, every MLS team had used at least on DP spot. With the Ecuadorian gone, a Chicago team that’s had eight different DPs on the books is the only team without one.

Finding valuable, high-cost additions is no longer a mere competitive advantage. It’s a requirement. If you don’t do it, you’re not keeping up.

Chicago hangs on to beat Dallas, go fifth in the Eastern Conference (video)

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[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x87nf7jKQXs]

Dallas needed a win to keep their postseason hopes alive, but seven minutes after halftime, Schellas Hyndman’s team was down three to the visiting Fire, who looked set to go fifth in the East with a win in Frisco.  The result would leave them on 46 points, even with fourth place Montréal and sixth place Philadelphia, who would slip by virtue of having one fewer win than Chicago.

Kenny Cooper, however, had other ideas. After holding off Gonzalo Segares to score Dallas’s 63rd minute opener, Cooper pulled his team within one with 15 minutes left, converting a controversially-awarded (and from Ramon Nunez’s perspective, selfishly-taken) penalty kick. Down 3-2, FCD had a little more than a quarter-hour to salvage their season.

But after a couple of close calls, Chicago finally settled down, and over the last minutes of this match, Dallas’s will drained. They needed two goals and a win to stay mathematically alive, so when their momentum didn’t quickly yield a third, the odds become very long, very quick. Juan Luis Anangonó’s opener, Mike Magee’s 19th of the year, and Jalil Anibaba’s game-winner would hold up, giving Chicago a 3-2 win.

The loss leaves Dallas seven back of Colorado (and Los Angeles) with two games to go, but although that makes Saturday the night the end point to their playoff dream, the team’s hopes had been running on fumes all fall. Leaders in the West going into the summer, Dallas seemed to regress to their mean as their year went on, finishing the season at the level many picked in February. While eighth place may have been slightly lower than most predicted, their 10-11-11 record describes a team many foresaw this winter.

For Chicago, their playoff destiny’s back in their own hands, though their final two games match them with opponents from opposite ends of the spectrum. That doesn’t mean they should sleep on Toronto, who visit Toyota Park on Saturday. Though TFC is struggling, they’ve still taken points in as many games (16) as they’ve lost. With Chicago drawing in Toronto last month, the Reds present a real danger to Frank Klopas’s side.

But if all goes as planned, Chicago’s big obstacle should be their finale at Red Bull Arena, where their playoff hopes may hinge on taking points from a team striving for the Supporters’ Shield.

Chicago sign Ecuadorian striker Juan Luis Anangonó to DP contract

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The Chicago Fire added a key piece to the jigsaw on Tuesday morning, as Ecuadorian striker Juan Luis Anangonó arrived as a Designated Player.

With the Fire actively looking for a new international striker, they’ve found their man as 24-year-old Anangonó has signed from Argentinos Juniors.

The physical forward has spent most of his career playing domestically in Ecuador with Barcelona SC and El Nacional before signing for Argentinos on loan.

So how will he compliment the Fire’s current crop of forwards? He’s certainly different.

Anangonó is a direct replacement for Sherjill MacDonald, as President of soccer operations Javier Leon has indicated that the Dutchman is heading closer to the exit door at Toyota Park. And the Ecuadorian’s style will give Chicago something they need. Power.

In Mike Magee and Chris Rolfe, the Fire possess instinctive strikers who can finish and manipulate little gaps in between defenders. But they don’t have a striker who can run at people and pick up long balls clipped in behind. Anangonó is your man.

He can finish, is good in the air and can operate on the flanks as well as an out-and-out striker. But Chicago do have a history of DP’s failing to settle in, so Frank Klopas will be hoping Anangonó takes to life in MLS quickly.

You only have to mention names such as Álvaro Fernández, Guillermo Franco, Federico Puppo and Rafael Robayo to realize their checkered history with marquee signings.

Cautious optimism is likely to ensue from Fire fans, and you can’t blame them.

But if the YouTube video below is anything to go by, MLS is gaining a hard-working striker who scores predatory goals and causes problems with his lanky frame and willingness to run on the last shoulder of central defenders.

If Anangonó can peel off towards the full backs of opposition teams and Magee, Rolfe and Joel Lindpere can find him with passes, the man from Ecuador has the potential to be the Fire’s best DP signing yet.

Then again, he hasn’t got much competition for that accolade, has he?