Rennie: Mattocks can't improve when he's suspended

When it rains, it pours. Vancouverites certainly know a thing or two about that.

In the Vancouver Whitecaps’ 2-1 loss to the Portland Timbers on Saturday, Darren Mattocks’ 84th-minute sending off was a final exasperating exclamation point on what was a frustrating night for the team against Cascadia opposition.

After the team botched pass after pass and the normally reliable Joe Cannon misplayed a free kick from Franck Songo’o on the game-winning goal, rookie forward Darren Mattocks went up for a challenge clumsily in the 83rd minute, clattering David Horst with an elbow to the head.

Out came the red card from head referee David Gantar, and the ‘Caps left Portland with more than a loss: They’ll be without Mattocks for a crucial matchup against the LA Galaxy next weekend as he serves an automatic match ban for his ejection.

WATCH: Mattocks sees red vs. Portland

The worst part was that the foul was avoidable, and Vancouver head coach Martin Rennie admitted the Jamaican’s often unorthodox methods of challenging for balls has been an issue the coaching staff has tried to address with the player.

“He has had some issues with getting yellow cards and red cards now,” Rennie told Vancouver radio station TEAM 1410 following the match. “The way that he challenges is something that we have talked about a lot and he hasn’t been able to learn from it. Now it’s a painful moment where maybe he will learn from it because for him to improve he can’t be getting sent off.

“You always back your players and I think Darren’s a fantastic player with a bright future,” Rennie said, “but this is something that he has to clean up.”

Mattocks’ dismissal is the latest in a string of recent Whitecaps indiscretions, and couldn’t have come at a worse time for the club. When asked just last week by reporters if his team was beginning to develop the wrong sort of reputation, he adamantly defended his team’s disciplinary record.

In recent weeks, though, Barry Robson was suspended for kicking a ball in the direction of a linesman, Martín Bonjour was suspended for yellow-card accumulation and Gershon Koffie sat out Saturday’s game in Portland with a one-match ban for his flying tackle on Andy Rose and subsequently making an obscene gesture in last weekend’s 2-0 loss to the Seattle Sounders.

“We’ve been taking a lot of criticism for our disciplinary record this season,” Rennie told TEAM 1410. “Probably three of our players have got more than 20 odd yellow cards and now Darren’s had a couple of reds, and Koffie’s had a red subsequently after a game.

“It’s not the whole group but there are certain players who are going to have to improve on that element of their game, because we need them on the field.”

Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com.