BURNABY, B.C. – A familiar face has returned to Vancouver Whitecaps training: Darren Mattocks.
The No. 2 pick in January's SuperDraft practiced with his teammates on Monday and spoke to the media for the first time since suffering a burn injury on March 18.
“It’s been six weeks, so I’m really excited to get back,” Mattocks said at Burnaby Lake field. “I just got to get back to where I was in preseason in terms of match fitness. Hopefully in a couple of weeks I’ll be ready to go.”
The speedy forward has been out of action since that cooking accident, only returning to individual sessions on the sideline last week.
Mattocks said his burns have healed “100 percent,” and the plan is for the 21-year-old to resume full training on Wednesday alongside players not traveling to Edmonton for the midweek Canadian Championship match.
The Akron alum explained he was cooking a Jamaican chicken dish on the night of the accident, when his hand caught the pot’s handle, splashing oil over his right shoulder and arm.
“To be honest, it’s been [agonizing],” Mattocks said. “Seeing my teammates play out there – I want to play my part for the team. To be out for six weeks – hopefully I’ll [only] be out a couple more weeks, but it was really a pain because I love to play the game and to be out for so long it’s not really good. But I’m so happy to be back, and I can’t wait to get back on the pitch and get back to playing soccer.”
Despite only starting his professional career, it was expected the Jamaican would play an important role in stretching opposing defenses in 2012, or at least act as an impact substitute late in games against tired defenses.
Mattocks’ speed has been missed, with Vancouver’s attack looking static at times. They’ve only scored four times in the six matches since his injury – so his return to the first team in the next few weeks will give head coach Martin Rennie a much needed alternative in attack.
“It’s nice to have him back out here,” Rennie said. “He looks very fit. It doesn’t seem like [the accident] has done him any harm at all fitness wise. He just needs to get his sharpness back. Hopefully he’ll get fully cleared on Wednesday to start training and be in full contact again.
“So it will be great to have him back. He seems very bubbly and upbeat, and I’m very happy with how he’s come back.”
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com.