D.C. United has known since the end of last season that they’d need a forward to serve as Wayne Rooney’s back-up. Once it became clear that Darren Mattocks, after a breakout season, didn’t want to play second fiddle, United was left with a worrisome empty spot on their roster. Per Steven Goff of the Washington Post, it looks like free agent Quincy Amarikwa is going to be the solution:
Goff followed that up with a photo from training of Amarikwa in team gear, participating in workouts:
Amarikwa is coming off of a 2018 that saw him traded late in the summer to the Montreal Impact. He quickly became a starter after showing chemistry with Ignacio Piatti, but finished his time in Quebec with just 1 goal in 644 minutes. He spent the first half of 2018 with the San Jose Earthquakes, who brought in a raft of new players to go with new leadership at the coach and GM positions. During his final season with the Quakes, he played just 269 minutes spread across 14 appearances, putting up 0 goals and 2 assists.
His lone goal for the Impact broke a goalless run that ran over two years, largely thanks to a late-season ACL tear in 2016. The injury and rehab kept him out until July 2017, and restricted him to sporadic, short appearances for the rest of that season. Amarikwa has posted 25 goals and 19 assists in 200 career appearances (98 starts), and United would be his sixth MLS club should he officially sign.
United’s idea all along has been to find someone who plays a different sort of game from Rooney at an affordable price point, and someone who would accept a second-choice role (unlike Darren Mattocks, who was up front about wanting to parlay his breakout season into a starting job). Amarikwa, more of an undersized bulldog of a target man than anything else, certainly fits that bill. As a free agent signing who made $289,167 in 2018, it seems likely that United will be paying far less for him in 2019 than Mattocks ($416,667) was set to make.
Known for a relentless work rate, Amarikwa’s job with United will be to pester defenders, hold the ball up, and incorporate midfield runners before making himself an option. Amarikwa is 5’9”, but offsets a lack of height by having tremendous balance, physical strength, and bravery. He’s also got a deceptively good first touch, which has often made him a useful forward for teams that get more of their goalscoring from the midfield.
Amarikwa’s track record does not, however, indicate that he’ll be as dangerous as an individual as Mattocks was. For one thing, the large majority (18, or about 72%) of his goals have come as a starter. That makes sense, as starters play far more minutes, but it doesn’t indicate that he’s got a particularly successful track record coming in off the bench and scoring. United’s ideal may be his 2014 season in Chicago, where he produced 3 goals in 14 appearances, none of which were starts.
At the salary level Amarikwa seems certain to sign at, United would be adding him to the on-budget portion of their roster. That would leave them with four total senior roster spots available, though it also seems reasonable to expect Oniel Fisher (torn knee ligaments) to begin the year on the Injured Reserve list, opening one roster spot — but not salary cap space — up until the Jamaican defender is activated.