Vancouver Whitecaps expect young attackers to step up in Kenny Miller's absence

Darren Mattocks

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VANCOUVER, B.C. – With Vancouver Whitecaps Designated Player Kenny Miller called up to the Scottish national team and thus unavailable for Saturday’s match against the Houston Dynamo, (8:30 pm ET, watch on MLS Live) much of the talk this week has centered around who among the veteran players will step forward to lead.

Just as important a question is which of the team’s young attackers will make a contribution to the team’s offense in his place.

Darren Mattocks has yet to find the target in his first two matches, and has looked unusually anonymous. They were home matches though, and it seems playing on the road favors the Jamaican – he scored six of his eight goals in 2012 away from home.

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“Usually teams are higher up the field,” head coach Martin Rennie told reporters this week when asked about why Mattocks seemed more effective while traveling. “One of his best strengths is getting in behind teams and his pace to break away. So I think that there is sometimes a bit more space and more room on the road, and I think that can definitely help him.”

The club’s two first round picks from the 2013 MLS SuperDraft, Kekuta Manneh and Erik Hurtado, could also play a role.

Manneh played the first half on opening day before coming off at half-time in Vancouver’s 1-0 win over Toronto FC, and playing down in Texas will be a sort of homecoming for the 18-year-old Gambian who played with the Texas Rush and Lonestar SC during his youth career after relocating from Africa.

“It’s not going to be because there’s people watching him from Texas,” Rennie said of whether he’d include Manneh based on sentiment. “But I do think he can help us. He has qualities that none of the other players have – his unbelievable quickness and ability to beat people. We just want to keep putting him in positions where he can do that and I think he can definitely help us.”

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Hurtado has come on as a late substitute while the ‘Caps have held leads in the first two games, so he’s a player trusted defensively – he too could play some part on Saturday out wide.

“With his pace, and his power, his work rate, and his fitness – they’re all good qualities to have on the road,” Rennie said. “He’s a goal threat, and I’m sure he’s someone who’ll play for us too [in away situations].”