Welcome to the final component of Eighty-Six Forever's complete review of the Vancouver Whitecaps 2014 roster; The strikers. Yes, we certainly saved the most dysfunctional group for last, as the Whitecaps offensive struggles were well known all season long. There were brief moments when it looked like the youngsters on the 'Caps, names like Hurtado, Manneh, Mattocks and Fernandez, would rise to the challenge and negate the need for Carl Robinson to go shopping for a proven goal scorer. Those moments would prove to be fleeting, and it's a hole the Whitecaps still desperately need to fill if they're to have more success in 2015. Now, after that glowing introduction, let's take a look at the usual suspects, and my grade for their 2014 performance.
DARREN MATTOCKS: C-
This was a statement year for Darren Mattocks, although probably not the statement Whitecaps fans were hoping for. In the off-season, Mattocks had made some incendiary comments that certainly didn't endear himself to the fans, and there was speculation the disgruntled youngster wouldn't be with the club to start 2014. To his credit, Mattocks apologized and pledged to be ready for the season, although the comments rang hollow with many.
After impressing with tantalizing potential for his first two MLS seasons, this was supposed to be the year Mattocks proved himself as a regular MLS player, someone that could try and pick up at least some of the slack from the departed Camilo. While Mattocks showed an improved work ethic in the early going, the results still weren't there. Consistent production simply wasn't there. With the city crying out for someone to put the ball in the net, Mattocks watched as others, like Erik Hurtado, moved past him on the depth chart.
Mattocks played the most minutes of his career (1892) in 2014, yet finished with six goals. Sure, that's much better than 2013, when he started only 8 games and mustered 3 goals, but obviously worse than his impressive 7 goal rookie campaign, a total he achieved despite starting 5 less games than this season. The Whitecaps have waited two seasons for the youngster to recover that magic we all saw in 2012, but it's quickly becoming apparent that it may never happen again. In my opinion, the club is better off moving Mattocks and giving both sides a chance for a fresh start, because I truly don't think he will ever achieve great success in a Whitecaps kit.
Most memorable 2014 moment, for better or for worse: I think this play sums up the season for Darren Mattocks nicely.
OMAR SALGADO: INCOMPLETE
How much slack should we cut Omar Salgado? I've given him an incomplete grade because he spent a lot of the season injured, but at the same time, he was absolutely abysmal when he was healthy. The Whitecaps former first overall pick had an instantly forgettable season in which he played in just 8 matches, starting in two of them. It was a familiar line from both scribes and fans as the season wore on, and a healthy Salgado watched from the sidelines; 'Why isn't Omar playing?'
The picture became clearer late in the season when there were various reports of Salgado's troubling immaturity at Whitecaps practice, and at the conclusion of a match against Chivas USA. For a guy trying to work his way onto the roster, Salgado did himself no favors, and he eventually went to Mexico for a 12 day trial with the Tigres UANL. He didn't figure into the Whitecaps roster for the rest of the season, including the playoff match against FC Dallas. The kid has been snake bit with injuries to be sure, but he was healthy for stretches of this season, the club was desperate for a goal scorer, and they decided to keep him on the sidelines. That has to speak volumes about their lack of confidence in him. If I were a betting man, I'd imagine we'll never see Salgado accomplish much of anything in a Whitecaps kit, and unless he smartens up, I can't see him achieving success anywhere.
Most memorable 2014 moment, for better or for worse: Tough to pick one of these when the dude never played. I'l go with handshake-gate against Chivas USA, which appeared to be the beginning of the end of his tenure here.
On a team stocked with prospects, Erik Hurtado seemed to fly under the radar. In his first season with the club, Hurtado was criticized for his elephant-like first touch, and seemed to be miles behind his counterparts like Kekuta Manneh, and Darren Mattocks. Well, Hurtado may not have had a perfect 2014, but he certainly proved that he does have a nose for the net, and a propensity to score absolutely beautiful goals. Most of Hurtado's production came from a torrid streak between May 10th and June 7th, in which he scored four goals in four straight games.
His production tailed off mightily for the rest of the season as he scored just once in the final 21 regular season games, but one thing he had to be praised for was his hard work. He made things happen for his teammates with good positioning, strong defensive work, and a seemingly never-ending battery to keep him going. He was rewarded in the playoffs, as he scored the 'Caps lone goal in that 2-1 loss to FC Dallas.
I'm not sure if Hurtado has what it takes to be a full time MLS player, because his production simply wasn't anywhere close to where it needed to be for that to happen. You have to respect his work ethic, but the dude was given 19 starts to prove his worth, and he appeared in 30 matches overall. For that amount of playing time, Hurtado was invisible on far too many nights, hard work or not. I'd like to see him as a depth option for the Whitecaps next season, but if the club is relying on him to be 'the guy', we're in for another lacklustre offensive season.
Most memorable 2014 moment, for better or for worse: Hey, I said the kid has a knack for scoring beauties.
Was I too harsh? Was I too lenient? Let me know in the comments, and while you're at it, check out 86 forever's full review of the Whitecaps roster.
Of course the final question we should be wondering; how bad would the season have been without Pedro Morales?