BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – The Chicago Fire are a much different team than the one that lost to Philadelphia twice in a row back in May, and they may add another piece to bolster the side this weekend when the teams meet for the third time (8 pm ET, watch on MLS Live).
Juan Luis Anangonó will be available for selection on Saturday after securing his P1 visa and ITC this week, but that doesn't mean the newly acquired Designated Player will start right away, coach Frank Klopas said.
“It's just a matter now getting his fitness and getting used to his teammates,” Klopas said, adding that Anangonó's hamstring has been tight after the coaching staff pushed him hard in training.
Anangonó will have to compete his way into a starting lineup that completely changed following the two losses to Philadelphia, after which they added Bakary Soumare and Mike Magee. They subsequently went on a six-game unbeaten streak in league play.
“[Soumare and Magee's arrivals] came at an unbelievable time,” midfielder Patrick Nyarko said. “What those guys have done for this team, words cannot describe it. The confidence they've brought to this team and the demands they've brought to this team and the growth they've brought to this team have been tremendous.”
Ten games after that second loss to the Union, the Fire are back in the thick of the playoff race and could inch closer to that fifth spot with a road win on Saturday.
With the playoff race beginning to heat up, Nyarko hopes the new DP provides enough of a spark to push the Fire into a playoff spot.
“We need that,” Nyarko said shortly after the Ecuadorian's arrival. “We've been doing well the past few weeks, but it's where it gets tough, where we need that spark. Hopefully that guy can give us that. He's physically fit, and he can hold up the ball when we need him to.”
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- Frank Klopas