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Chicago Fire making moves

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Ecuador's Juan Luis Anangono (L) celebrates after scoring against Argentina during their U-20 South American Championship football match at the Monumental Stadium in Maturin, Venezuela on January 27, 2009
Ecuador's Juan Luis Anangono (L) celebrates after scoring against Argentina during their U-20 South American Championship football match at the Monumental Stadium in Maturin, Venezuela on January 27, 2009

It looks as though there will soon be a new face in camp with the Chicago Fire. Javier Leon, President of Soccer Operations, recently tantalized Chicago supporters in a lengthy interview about the possibility of a new signing. Leon described an incoming international player as 24 years-old, performing well for his club team, and with a real possibility to play for his national team in the 2014 World Cup. Coupling this information with recent rumors and we may be able to anticipate who the signing will be.

Several player names have been floating around over the last few weeks connected with Chicago: Matias Perez Garcia, Ezequiel Miralles, and Juan Luis Anangono. All of these South American players are looking to move and fit a niche that Chicago has developed over the Frank Klopas tenure of the attacking, playmaking midfielder who likes to get forward. The Argentine players Perez Garcia and Miralles look likely to go elsewhere and don’t fit the description that Leon gave.

However, Juan Luis Anangono is a 24 year old forward who has played extremely well at the club level with El Nacional (a top team in Ecuador) and on loan with the Argentine Premier League side Argentinos Juniors. The Ecuadorian Anangono looks to be well positioned to contribute to his national team as it makes a run to qualify for the 2014 World Cup. Given the recently comments by Dutch forward Sherjill MacDonald to the effect that he no longer cares if he plays for the Chicago Fire or not, it would seem that a new forward is desperately needed.

Leon also made it a point to stress that they are looking to bring in younger players who may grow into the Designated Player slot. MLS has had a habit of looking to sign out of contract players who are late in their career, often a ‘young’ international coming to MLS is no younger than 27 years old (as MacDonald was when he came to the US from the Belgian Jupiler Pro League). Thus, a change in direction looking to sign younger players who can bloom in the league may be just want Leon and Chicago need. Every MLS team want to be in a situation where they sign and develop the next Freddy Montero, the Colombian forward who came MLS at age 22 to play for the Seattle Sounders and quickly became a star in the league.

Chicago will probably need to make some sort of move regarding MacDonald’s contract before any new, high-profile signing can come in since MacDonald’s Designated Player contract takes up a significant about of salary cap space. Options for MacDonald could entail a loan out for the remainder of his contract, Chicago buying out the remainder and releasing him, or a greatly reduced value full transfer. The Fire have one international slot available to them and with centerbacks Columbian Yamith Cuesta and Guatemalan Elias Vasquez still on trial it appears as though Chicago will have to open up at least one more international slot to bring on board either for defensive depth.