The San Jose Earthquakes will be missing their MVP Saturday night against FC Dallas as Chris Wondolowski is on international duty for the USA ahead of the Copa America Centenario tournament that starts Friday at Levi's Stadium. Fortunately, his attacking partner Quincy Amarikwa, who has been out with a hamstring injury for over a month, is ready to step in and replace Wondo.
"I'm ready," said Amarikwa following the team's training session on Friday. "My preparation has been simply to get back healthy. I've been out there gaining my confidence in my hamstring's ability to handle the load."
Suffered when he was awkwardly pushed in the back by a defender in a 1-0 victory over Sporting Kansas City back on April 24, the injury was not seriousness to shelf Amarikwa for too long. Within days he was keeping up his fitness as he awaiting clearance to resume on-field activities. Now, with four weeks of rehab completed, the target forward is ready to take on the rigors of match day action once again.
"The way I like to play -- I am a physical player -- requires me to take the precautions necessary to make sure I don't experience any setbacks," said Amarikwa. "We've done well to do that this week, and I look forward to contributing this weekend."
With Wondolowski and teammate Simon Dawkins gone for at least two games, and as many as four, the Earthquakes needed a replacement at forward, especially with Innocent still listed as questionable for his MLS return from injury. Head coach Dominic Kinnear, who might have preferred to ease Amarikwa back into the rotation, is not afforded that luxury given the lack of healthy options at the forward position.
"He's been taking care of himself since he was injured," said Kinnear. "He's wanted to play earlier. He's going to get time on Saturday."
Amarikwa is expected to start the game alongside Chad Barrett, the assist man on Fatai Alashe's goal in last weekend's 1-1 draw against the LA Galaxy. Whether or not the physical target man can go the full 90 minutes is still to be seen, but his importance to the Quakes in the absence of Wondolowski cannot be overstated.
"It's huge to have him back," said Alashe, who himself will have a big role to play for the Quakes against Dallas. "Obviously, Quincy is a great player and done some great stuff for us this year. Ever since he arrived last summer, we've been a different team. It's good that with us missing Wondo, Quincy is back for us. I expect he'll have a good game and, hopefully, get on the scoresheet as well."
If the Earthquakes hope to keep their unblemished home record intact, contributions from Amarikwa may very well be key.