Despite the 'Caps riding a bit of an upswing lately, the focus, and much of the deserved criticism, has fallen at the boots of young striker Darren Mattocks. He lit the world on fire in his first season, but in his first year as a marquee player, he's failed to live up to expectations. (Remember when he said he could score 20 in a season? Yikes.) It's funny, because I feel like this question is posed every time Mattocks goes through a scoring slump, but should we worry? Is it time to move him? How much slack does our young star deserve?
His season has been disappointing for a few reasons. Firstly, he was supposed to shine with all the upgrades done to the Whitecaps midfield this season. We've seen, on more than one occasion, Nigel Reo-Coker steam into the offensive end, and then play a perfect ball to Mattocks, just to watch him whiff. It's usually followed by him lying on the pitch holding his head, or covering his face, or generally just not running back quick enough. Essentially, the roster has improved, but he hasn't. Is that reason for concern?
When you break down his game, nothing serious has changed. He's doing the exact same thing as before, but maybe that's where the problem is stemming from. Any Coach worth his salt would be able to watch film, find the tendencies and patterns of Mattocks, and then instruct his defenders on how to contain him. Given Mattocks' stats, it appears to be working. Really though, is that Darren Mattocks' fault? Truly, shouldn't Martin Rennie bear some of the blame for not finding better ways of utilizing his top weapon? If the kick and chase doesn't work anymore, then the 'Caps have to give Mattocks the ball in different scenarios, whether that be a possession style, or it could be as simple as putting him in a different position, although mid is pretty full. How about switching up the formation then? I take issue with this because the 'Caps have been playing well lately. If we wanted to see a drastic shakeup, that should have happened three weeks ago, when the 'Caps desperately needed one. Now, I don't think it's wise to alter the entire formation just to see if it'll help Mattocks.
Lastly, how about benching him? I used to have an issue with this, but now I think it may be the correct way to go. I'm not a fan of benching your stars when the team needs wins, basically because a star is a star for a reason. That being said, perhaps Mattocks would be better served as a second half player right now, or even just a first half player. Maybe he should be splitting his time with someone like Kekuta Manneh, just to try and light another fire under his ass. The problem with Mattocks is his carefree attitude; nothing really seems to stress him. Even if he's benched, I can't see him having a gigantic epiphany because of it.
Then why not trade him? Well, because he's a talented player that we've seen a minuscule sample size of. I know this season has been a let down, but surely he deserves more opportunities to prove himself before we jettison him off to a competing club. This should be treated as a last resort, because Mattocks has the tools to become an elite MLS player and beyond. Plus, as it's been discussed in the comments sections of other pieces, what if we did trade him, then were forced to watch him blossom into a great player in a different kit? I don't think I could handle that.
What do you guys think? What is to be done with Darren Mattocks?