SAN JOSE, Calif. – With his close-range, chest-in finish against the Houston Dynamo last weekend, Quincy Amarikwa scored his fourth goal in five appearances since getting traded back to the San Jose Earthquakes in June.
But perhaps the 27-year-old’s signature moment of the Quakes’ 2-1 loss came in the 72nd minute, on a hustle play that had no real bearing on the outcome. With Dynamo left back DaMarcus Beasley hemmed in by San Jose winger Sanna Nyassi, the ball was sent to Houston defender Raul Rodriguez just outside the penalty area. As Rodriguez went to deliver a booming clearance, Amarikwa streaked in on a full sprint, then dove head-first to create a deflection.
As it turned out, the ball caromed off Amarikwa’s body for a Houston throw-in. But the message was clear: Even down a man, the Quakes’ man at the point of attack was not going to let the hosts take anything for granted.
“He works hard and battles,” Quakes captain Chris Wondolowski said. “You want someone out there that has that. I think he brings some passion and something special. It’s always nice to play with that.”
For Amarikwa, it’s a return to his results of 2014 – when he delivered eight goals and five assists for the Chicago Fire – at a time when San Jose has been in desperate need of a boost. Amarikwa has been the Quakes’ only goal-scorer through a six-match winless streak in league play; San Jose has been outscored by a combined 13-4 count in those matches.
“I feel like I’ve been put in a position to actually get to score goals, which is nice, for a change,” said Amarikwa, who played with the Quakes in 2009 and 2010 before moving to Colorado. “This league, forwards are expected to defend a lot more than forwards in other leagues, so it kind of -- sometimes you might lose your goal-scoring form because you’re more concerned with maintaining shape with the team and making sure you’re helping get back defensively. Sometimes, as an offensive player, you’ve got to be selfish…. I’m being more mindful of [the fact that] first and foremost, my job is to score goals.”
Amarikwa almost tallied his first assist in his second Quakes go-round last weekend, after hustling to track a hoofed ball from San Jose left back Shaun Francis. Rodriguez and Amarikwa collided in an attempt to gain possession, with Amarikwa scrambling up quickly to take control at the edge of Houston’s penalty area.
Wondolowski, on-rushing in the center channel, threw his hands up to call for a pass – but Amarikwa was so surprised to see the 100-goal man pop up in such a wide-open position that it took a moment to shift gears. That was just long enough for Rodriguez to recover and intervene.
“By the time I got to the ball, I thought I was by myself,” Amarikwa said. “So my first instinct was, ‘Okay, how am I going to try to take a touch and shoot it?' And in the time where I’m going to take a touch, then I see Chris, so then my mind changes from ‘shoot it’ to ‘try to find him.’ But that’s all it took, the half a second for the defender to come and kick it away. As I was going to kick it to Chris, his foot came in and kicked it out before me."
Amarikwa says he conferred with Wondolowski. “I was speaking to Chris about knowing that when I make the unorthodox runs to pressure guys, that he’s going to trust that I’ll win the ball," he said. "So when I do get it, not to think that I’m alone up there, that he’s crashing the box. Hopefully, next time when I win the ball like that, my first instinct will be to look – because if I look and he’s there, it’s going to be an easy tap-in.”
Amarikwa has given the Quakes a different look atop their 4-1-4-1 formation, somewhere between the straight speed of injured Designated Player Innocent and the physicality of target men Adam Jahn and Mark Sherrod, who had drawn the bulk of playing time before Amarikwa’s arrival. Amarikwa brings some speed to the table, but still has enough skill with his back to goal to draw a game-high five fouls against the Dynamo.
“I think four goals in five games in pretty impressive, no matter who you are and what league you’re in,” Quakes coach Dominic Kinnear told MLSsoccer.com. “I think to go along with that production, his overall play has been really good, too.”
Wondolowsky added to the praise. “He brings a lot to this team – his work ethic, his hold-up play," he said. "He’s done a great job. I love seeing him get rewarded for it.”
Of course, one could say that Amarikwa is rewarding himself by virtue of his own indefatigable tenacity.
“At the end of the day, I think your effort is the only thing you can control absolutely, every single time,” Amarikwa said. “You might be tired, so 100 percent effort might not result in playing 90 minutes this game, but it can still be everything you have on that given day.”