Chicago Fire forward Quincy Amarikwa knew exactly where to run when defender Jalil Anibaba's deep throw-in left his hands in the 84th minute of Saturday's 1-1 tie with Real Salt Lake.
The reserve forward studied the game from the bench in the first half and noticed that Anibaba's throw-ins were usually connecting with Austin Berry, and Berry's headers were almost always going to the near post, so Amarikwa slipped past his defender and ran toward that spot. Berry's header floated straight into his stride, so he took one step, leapt in the air and volleyed the tying goal into the back of the net.
“You're trying to assess the game [on the bench] and see what you can do if you get the opportunity to come on,” Amarikwa told MLSsoccer.com “The one thing with coming off the bench is, if you do get an opportunity to score a goal, that's probably the only opportunity you'll get with the limited minutes you'll get, so anything you can try to do to get an advantage when you do get on, you try to use that to the best of your ability.”
Amarikwa's goal was all the Fire needed to salvage a draw even though they held only 32 percent of possession and mustered only two shots on goal while Real Salt Lake took nine.
Sean Johnson made save after save during the tie in another signature game for the young goalkeeper.
“I thought he was man of the match,” Amarikwa said of Johnson. “He's the only reason we had the opportunity to tie it in the end.”
Johnson's heroics helped give Amarikwa a chance he sorely needed with opportunities for playing time dwindling.
Minutes haven't come easy for the 25-year-old this season, and they may become even more difficult to come by when attacker Mike Magee arrives from LA. Saturday's athletic goal should put him in the mix for more late minutes.
“Obviously, if you're a player and you're not starting, every opportunity you get to play or showcase yourself is kind of a situation to prove that you can play at this level and you want to help the team more and you want to be looked upon to be somewhat that is utilized more,” Amarikwa said. “Every chance you get is an opportunity to prove yourself.”