WASHINGTON – There have been times at past clubs where Darren Mattocks’ outspoken desire to start has been misunderstood, at least from the outside, as a dressing room distraction.
Not so at D.C. United, where he may be the most potent offensive bench threat of coach Ben Olsen’s tenure.
“I don't know about the baggage or whatever people think about Darren Mattocks, I don't know where that comes from,” Olsen said Wednesday night. “But I think it's [b.s.]. I think he's a great guy, and he's a good teammate. And he's been nothing but helpful to this club.”
As D.C. prepare to try and defeat the New York Red Bulls Sunday (1pm ET | ESPN - full TV & streaming info) after two previous losses to their rivals this year – and maybe vault above the playoff line in the process – they do so with Mattocks showing value as a supersub, even if it’s a role the Jamaica international fills reluctantly.
It was his team-leading 10th goal, and his second in 95 minutes of action as a sub since Wayne Rooney’s midseason arrival dropped him from a starting role. And it came only three days after he pounced for a brace while on international duty with the Reggae Boyz, on a trip that saw him return to Washington only Tuesday.
“I understand the situation he’s in, and we need him,” Rooney said of Mattocks after Wednesday’s win. “If I’m honest, I didn’t even know he was back until we come into the dressing room today. It was great for us to have that threat with his pace and full credit to him for getting back and being ready for tonight.”
If United do reach the postseason, success at some point will hinge on the ability to manufacture offense against the flow of the match. That’s exactly the task Mattocks faced Wednesday when he came on in the 58th minute as a sluggish D.C. side trailed.
Ulises Segura equalized six minutes after Mattocks’ entrance. Five minutes after that, Luciano Acosta’s long ball found Joseph Mora down the left. And it was Mattocks who had the pace and the fresh legs to be first to Mora’s service to the near post.
“All goals are important, but to get the game-winner on a night when the team wasn’t playing well, it’s really important,” Mattocks told MLSsoccer.com. “It’s important to get wins when the team isn’t playing at their best.”
Mattocks still believes he is a starting-caliber MLS forward, and his early-season production was better than many front-liners. But at age 28 and in his seventh MLS season, he’s also determined to make the best of every situation, including one where one of the world’s great attacking footballers is above him on the depth chart.
“I take as much as I can from him,” Mattocks said of Rooney. “I’m doing my best to try [to adjust]. The team benefitted really well from what he brought, and everyone can see that.
“But I guess I was the only person who it really affected directly. And my minutes have dropped significantly. But that’s how it goes sometimes ... . So I’ve just got to stay focused. Because your chance is going to come again, and you’ve just got to be ready to take it.”