With the introduction of a new coach some players on the Chicago Fire looked for new opportunities to make their mark during the 2014 MLS preseason. One such player is striker Quincy Amarikwa. The 26-year old continued to impress as the Fire closed out preseason play last Saturday night against Chivas Rayadas, scoring a late goal to seal the victory and give Chicago the 2-0 win in the final of the Desert Diamond Cup in Tucson, Arizona. The win gave Chicago a preseason record of 7-1-0.
Amarikwa saw limited minutes in 2013 under former coach Frank Klopas. He scored 3 goals in 14 appearances, all as a substitute, but feels like he's already seeing more chances under new head coach Frank Yallop. Those moments have come early and often.
“This year there's been more chances to get the opportunity to play based on my performance,” Amarikwa told Fire Confidential after Saturday's win. “Every system is different, and every style is different, so your role is different depending on who you're playing for. I think this year has given me a really great opportunity to show what I've been waiting to show the last 4 or 5 years in the league.”
Throughout the Fire's preseason camp, Amarikwa has taken advantage of those moments, coming on consistently as a sub behind Designated Player Juan Luis Anangono. His work, even as a role player has paid off as he closed out preseason camp tied with rookie Harry Shipp for the team lead in goals.
“I feel like my preseason's gone pretty well,” he told Fire Confidential. “I've scored a couple goals and gotten a couple of assists. I feel like I've played well with the limited minutes I've gotten. Hopefully the performance translates to more minutes, especially with the season right around the corner. That's what I'm looking forward to.”
His performance has seemingly caught the eye of Yallop, who used Amarikwa regularly throughout preseason. Despite testing out different lineups, and with numerous players vying for the backup striker job, Amarikwa has been a permanent fixture in Yallop's plans early on. In the end, he hopes it's a performance that will help him turn a corner in his career.
“It's just a waiting game. I try to be as consistent as possible and wait for my chance. When I get my chance, I'll make the most of it.”
Fire trade for Watson - More moves on the way
Yallop and Brian Bliss continue to add roster depth and it looks like they'll continue to make moves right up until opening weekend. The Fire acquired midfielder Matt Watson from the Vancouver Whitecaps in exchange for an international roster spot. Watson is a native of Redditch, England but is a green card holder who does not occupy an international spot.
He's started 25 games out of 36 regular season appearances over two season with the Whitecaps. Before joining Vancouver he played for USL-Pro's Richmond Kickers following a college career at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. He's also played in the MISL and NASL.
He'll provide coverage and depth in the holding and central midfield positions for the Fire but the question now turns to who he will replace on the roster. With this deal the team currently stands at 29 players under contract. Once the move to bring in Grant Ward is officially finalized the Fire will be two over the 28 man roster that Yallop is looking to keep to start the season.
Watson was paid $71,752 in guaranteed compensation in 2013 according to the latest MLSPU report so it would seem that the Fire are going to move an "on-budget" player currently on the roster in order to make room for him. If the club does not use "on budget" spots 19 and 20 those spots can be used as allocation dollars toward the first 18 on the roster, effectively creating additional cap space.
Orr Barouch and Yazid Atouba were not introduced during the Kick Off Luncheon yesterday but it seems that their absences doesn't necessarily mean that both will be gone in order to get down to 28 players once Ward is signed. It's likely that Atouba will be waived while Barouch, who is still recovering from an injury remains. That would leave one "on budget" player on the chopping block. Interestingly Watson is a central midfielder. A position where the Fire have also added Benji Joya and Chris Ritter this offseason.
Who's on the move?
We'll find out soon enough.