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Amarikwa ready to fight for spot in starting lineup

Quincy Amarikwa did everything the Fire asked of him last season. Play up top by himself? Sure. Pair with a rotating cast of striking partners? Done. Occasionally create an attack out of nothing just with effort? No problem. Compete for crosses despite being 5-foot-9? Can do.

All of that led to a breakout 2014 for the former journeyman. In his second season with the Fire – his fourth MLS club – Amarikwa scored a team-high eight goals and won plaudits for his energy and hustle during what was a lost season for his team.

But things have changed entering 2015. Instead of being guaranteed a starting spot, Amarikwa is in an uphill battle for playing time. The Fire signed three attacking Designated Players – plus veteran Guly do Prado – and will eventually get Mike Magee back, possibly pushing Amarikwa out of the starting lineup or even off the game-day 18-man roster.

Amarikwa, though, isn’t giving up his spot without a fight.

“Three forward DP signings in the offseason will light a fire under you but I know I’ve been doing the right things and I’ve come into preseason prepared to keep my spot, and I plan on showing why I should continue to be the starter for this club,” Amarikwa said. “A lot of guys that we’ve brought in look like they’re real quality players and I know I can learn a lot from them and hopefully build some good partnerships.”

Through no fault of his own, Amarikwa didn’t do that last season. Among others, he paired with Magee, Juan Luis Anangono, Matthew Fondy, Robert Earnshaw, Florent Sinama-Pongolle and Sanna Nyassi, a motley crew if ever there was one.

That isn’t the plan for this season. The Fire brought in Shaun Maloney, David Accam and Kennedy Igboananike to solve their attacking problems, creating a tight roster that could push Amarikwa to the bench.

“Like I said to (Amarikwa) at the end of the season, ‘You need help.’ There was no one really I could put (there). Mike was injured, Patrick (Nyarko) was out. Quincy did great for us, if you like, with just being a warrior up front,” Fire coach Frank Yallop said. “He needed help, and he needed at times to have a break or if he wasn’t playing particularly well, not coming off the field. But he stuck to it, kept going, got his eight goals.

“Yeah, there’s competition for places, which I think is healthy in any club.”

Last season, there wasn’t much competition. By the end it was Amarikwa and whoever else was healthy enough to play beside him, illustrating how the Fire were lacking talent and depth.

Clearly, that isn’t the case this season, but Yallop doesn’t expect Amarikwa to just meekly hand over his position.

“What’s good about it is it opens people’s eyes up. He’s the first to say he needed help, and so we are we’re helping. Now he can’t be afraid of the competition,” Yallop said. “I know Quincy, he fights hard and he tries and gives everything he has. We have some guys to help him out now, and that’s important for us as a club.”

Amarikwa sees that too, though he spent the offseason watching as his team acquired expensive players who could take his place.

“Everyone wants to have as much depth as possible. As a player it just comes with the territory,” Amarikwa said. “It took me five years before I got my opportunity, so I’ve obviously seen my fair share of guys coming in who might not have proven themselves but they’re big signings. They have a good (resume) and they kind of take precedence, so you kind of got to keep doing what you’re doing, grind away and wait for your opportunity.

“Last year was my opportunity, so I hope to still show that I can play at the top level.”