Recently, I wrote a blog post wondering out loud if we should worry about Darren Mattocks. He hadn't cracked the goose egg at that point, and people were wondering if he was a one hit wonder. Well, he has scored a goal since then, although he's sitting at an eyebrow raising 1 goal in 4 contests. It's not like those are horrible stats, but for a guy who said he could reach 20 in one season, it's definitely less than what was expected.
A closer look at Mattocks' numbers this year tells a couple of different stories. For example, with just the one goal, it's easy to overlook his 14 shots through 4 matches, which is 8th in Major League Soccer. 4 matches is a small sample size, but it still translates to 3.5 shots per game. You can compare that with his rookie year, when he had 39 shots through 22 matches, an average of 1.8 shots per game. So, clearly Mattocks is getting opportunities to shoot, which is a good thing.
On the flipside, Mattocks has just four shots on goal so far this season. While that does average out to 1 SOG per match, all four shots came against the Houston Dynamo, where he scored his lone goal. Basically, he's been shut out in every other contest, which is a tad worrying. The knock against Mattocks has always been inconsistency and finish, both of which are showcased with just that one stat. Mattocks has been a bit wild with his shot early this season, and while he appeared to be climbing out of his shell against Houston (6 shots to go along with the goal, and 4 SOG) he couldn't keep the mojo going against Chivas USA.
Basically, Mattocks is the center piece of the 'Caps offence, and he no longer has the element of surprise on his side. Teams know that he's blazing fast and that he's incredibly dangerous around the box, so perhaps his dip in numbers can be attributed to adjustment. Perhaps teams have him figured out; in fact, that's more of a probability with all of the scouting is done on players. If that is the case, then the honus is on Mattocks and Coach Martin Rennie to figure out different ways to exploit Mattocks' strengths. Martin Rennie knows more about the game of soccer than I ever will, but perhaps a decrease in the amount of long balls for Mattocks could be a strategy worth taking a look at. Yes, Mattocks was able to turn many of those long through balls into strong attacking opportunities last year, but that really only works when you've caught the opposing team off guard. When you try the same bloody thing over and over again, you're doing your opponent a favor. I guess the phrase I'm trying to use here is 'picking your spots.' Right now, it seems like the 'Caps are trying to force that play.
Mattocks has a long leash, and for good reason. He brings a new dimension to the 'Caps attack whenever he puts his boots on the pitch. That being said, there are a lot of attacking players competing for playing time on this team. How long can that leash be?