He is easily the biggest target for public derision on the Vancouver Whitecaps, and many were surprised when he was still on the team when the 2015 season kicked off. However, as we approach the Whitecaps ninth match of the season, it's hard to not be even slightly impressed with the recent play of Darren Mattocks.
Mattocks seemed like a superflous piece of the Whitecaps roster, even more so when Kekuta Manneh was in the starting 11 to begin the season. With Manneh on the roster, Mattocks just seemed like an older, streakier version of the young blue chip prospect, and one with a questionable attitude. The attitude part may not be fair, but Mattocks brought it upon himself with a hare-brained interview on Jamaican TV in the winter of 2013, in which Mattocks managed to offend pretty much everybody associated with the Whitecaps.
Despite an apology and a promise to work harder, Mattocks continued to land on the bad side of public opinion with some pretty lackluster stats. In his rookie year, he scored 7 goals, but followed that up with 3 the following year, and 6 in 2014, and that was on a squad desperate for someone to put the ball in the net. The Whitecaps could have chosen to move on from Mattocks after that, but Carl Robinson must've seen something, because he decided to hang on to the youngster for at least one more go around.
While it's too early to say for sure, it looks like a good gamble on the part of Robinson. Mattocks has only played in six matches this season and started three of them, but he has two goals, which is good enough for second on the club behind Octavio Rivero. That's including his game winner over the weekend. While the numbers aren't going to carry the squad, Mattocks doesn't really have to. With Rivero, Morales, Rosales, Earnshaw and Mannheh on the roster, Mattocks just has to keep chipping in with goals every so often, and working his butt off in the minutes given to him. His work ethic has been great this year and he's getting chances to score, so Mattocks really just needs to focus on finishing his chances better. That may be easier said than done for the young Jamaican, but his chances of success are way better this year than in those previous. Less pressure and a more talented roster could mean Mattocks finally, finally takes the next step in his MLS career.
Mattocks will have to continually prove himself this season, because he has more competition for his roster spot this year than at any previous time in his tenure with the Whitecaps. Heck, wIth Cristian Techera's looming presence and Erik Hurtado also looking for some playing time, Mattocks won't have a moment to relax.
To be honest, that's the best case scenario for Mattocks, and it will be interesting to see if he can continue to rise to the challenge. I'm not sure what the long term future for Mattocks holds in a Whitecaps kit, but his improved play is great news for the Whitecaps and their attacking depth.