Chicago Fire have equalled the Major League Soccer record for consecutive draws after racking up number six against the New England Revolution on Saturday.
With the scores level at a goal apiece and the Fire down to ten men after goal scorer Quincy Amarikwa’s dismissal, they blew a chance to claim all three points when Designated Player Juan Luis Anangona saw an injury time spot kick saved by Bobby Shuttleworth.
It was the second successive home game that the Fire missed a game-winning penalty in the last-minute with last season’s Most Valuable Player Mike Magee suffering the same fate against the Philadelphia Union a fortnight ago.
Captain Jeff Larentowicz, who converted from 12-yards earlier in the season away to the Portland Timbers, was willing to accept the blame for Anangono taking such an important kick.
“Juan steps up and grabs the ball and that’s just what happened,” said Larentowicz afterwards.
“As captain and as the one who’s made a penalty this year, I should take the ball and take the penalty. That’s on me, not Juan.”
Coach Frank Yallop was less than impressed to have seen his side throw away the opportunity to claim victory and break a run of seven games without a win.
“Déjà vu from the last home game we had,” he said.
“Should have four more points than we’ve got. The team kept going, fighting, and that’s good. It feels empty because of the way we have put a lot of effort into the games we’ve had and you don’t get rewarded for it.”
On the penalty incident, Yallop said that he was powerless to affect the situation and it was a call made by the players on the pitch.
“Mike missed his last one, Jeff scored a penalty, but I’m 50 yards away,” he said.
“I can scream whatever I want but it’s up to them to sort it out and decide who’s taking it and they decided Juan’s going to take it. … It wasn’t a good penalty kick.”
Truth being told, Chicago’s problems in front of goal extend beyond missing penalties.
They have attempted more shots than any other side in MLS this season (101) with just 34.6% hitting the target for a return of ten goals.
While reaching double figures for goals scored after seven games is by no means a bad thing, the fact remains that they have only six points on the board from a possible 21 and sit second from bottom on the Eastern Conference.
The signing of Anangono hasn’t worked out as hoped, with the 25-year-old spending more time on the bench than on the field so far this year for a return of a single goal.
In 2013, having joined the club in July from Argentinos Juniors of the Argentine Primera Division, the Ecuadorian scored twice in 13 games as the Fire missed out on a playoff spot with a last day defeat to the New York Red Bulls.
There had been talk of the club moving him on to free up the $175,000 salary he commands, as well as an international spot, but instead Chris Rolfe was allowed to join DC United.
Anangono isn’t the only one failing to fire this term, and Mike Magee is struggling to match last season’s superb showing which saw him score 15 goals in 22 league games for his hometown team following a move from the LA Galaxy.
The one ray of light up front has been Quincy Amarikwa, a 26-year-old who has had to bide his time for regular starts at Toyota Park.
Amarikwa has already beaten his best ever return for a single season by hitting four goals in seven games so far, though he will now serve a one-match suspension after seeing red against the Revs.
The Fire have a bye this week before returning to action on May 3rd against last season’s MLS Cup runners-up Real Salt Lake.
With their one in-form striker on the sidelines, there won’t be a better time for both Magee and Anangono to finally find some form in 2014.