Quincy Amarikwa’s audacious chip shot was still in midflight Sunday afternoon when San Jose Earthquakes assistant coach Steve Ralston gave an assessment to his boss, Dominic Kinnear:
“He’s got him.”
Moments later, it was official. Amarikwa’s shot traveled some 35 yards or more from the right wing before flying over the outstretched hand of scrambling Portland Timbers goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey and nestling in the upper 90 at the far post. The goal, in first-half stoppage time, would prove the difference in San Jose's 2-1 victory at Avaya Stadium.
Quakes captain Chris Wondolowski, whose 30th-minute goal might have been the lead story on another day, had a one-word reaction to his strike partner’s display.
“Wow,” Wondolowski said. “I saw him hit it and I went, ‘OK.’ Then I saw Kwarasey scrambling a bit and I was like, ‘Oh, wow. It has a chance.’ Unbelievable. It was just a great goal. The finish was sublime, but the whole [sequence], I think that just embodies Quincy right there: He muscles off two guys on his own half, sprints away from a couple of guys and then hits a world-class finish. That was something special.”
The sequence began with Amarikwa withstanding a collision with Portland’s Darlington Nagbe as both players tried to capture a ricocheting loose ball in the Quakes’ half. Amarikwa let Nagbe slide off his back, then took a long touch to spring clear from surrounding Timbers. Another long touch kept Amarikwa free from the pursuit of Diego Chara, Jermaine Taylor and Zarek Valentin. A final dribble set Amarikwa up to take the kind of shot that normally is the province of one-word players: Messi. Ronaldo. Zlatan.
“Once I made contact with it, I knew I hit it how I wanted to,” Amarikwa said. “So I thought it was in unless the keeper could move his feet well enough to get a touch to it.”
Amarikwa tried a couple of more long-range chances after scoring – one attempt left him sprawled in a puddle near the center circle – but couldn’t catch lightning again. Not that anyone was going to begrudge Amarikwa, whose bulldog tenacity has been a key component of San Jose’s attack since arriving midway through last season.
“As you show what you can do, guys give you more leeway to do certain things because they’ve seen you do it in training or on a regular basis,” Amarikwa said. “I think if you put in the hard work, guys aren’t going to be too mad when you’re taking chances like that because they know they’re benefitting from opportunities you’re creating as well.”