On Saturday, in his fifth game with Montreal since coming over in a trade from San Jose last month, Amarikwa scored his first goal of the season and helped set up another as the Impact rolled to a crucial 4-1 road win over the Philadelphia Union.
“He brings us a lot of enthusiasm and energy,” Impact head coach Remi Garde said. “He fits very well with the group. He settled in very quickly because I think he’s a clever guy.”
Garde added that Amarikwa has asked a lot of questions over the last few weeks, trying hard to figure out the best way he can be utilized on the field and how his teammates can benefit from his game.
The veteran forward thinks that chemistry is now clicking into place after Saphir Taider scored the go-ahead goal Saturday on a rebound attempt generated from an Amarikwa shot.
“Maybe it doesn’t show directly on the stat sheet but I feel like the guys are learning about me, and through that seeing they’re going to get a lot of opportunities off second chances and second balls,” Amarikwa said. “I think Saphir does a great job to follow up my shot. That’s him anticipating it’s going to be on frame … and he’s there to put it away. It’s great to see us come together and figure it out, especially with this run into the playoffs here.”
On top of his hold-up play and goalscoring ability — he dove to finish off a cross from Daniel Lovitz to put the Impact ahead 3-1 in the 63rd minute — Amarikwa brings veteran savvy to a locker room at just the right time of the season. A 10-year MLS veteran, the 30-year-old forward knows what goes into playoff races and how to bring the same intensity even after a two-week layoff, as the Impact did Saturday to earn their second straight three-goal win.
“I think when you start to get to be in your 10th year of the league, you’ve seen a lot of things before, so you know how to mentally prepare and know what’s required of you,” Amarikwa said. “So it kind of gives you a perspective of understanding where you are and how to best approach it. Hopefully I can be someone to permeate that to the younger guys on the squad and guys without as much MLS experience.”
At 36, Montreal defender Rod Fanni is not one of those younger guys. But he’s appreciated what Amarikwa has brought to the locker room during the stretch run all the same.
“He has a very good spirit,” Fanni said. “He’s a fighter. He holds up a lot of the ball. He’s very important for the team and has very good character. We need a player like that for the team.”