Vancouver Whitecaps rookie Darren Mattocks is fast. Really fast.
That speed helped the Jamaican attacker score 39 goals in 47 matches at the NCAA level with the University of Akron, and now it’s causing his Vancouver teammates to compare him with some of the fastest men in – and out – of the soccer world.
“I call him Usain Bolt, because he’s so fast,” a laughing Eric Hassli told MLSsoccer.com during a recent phone interview, comparing Mattocks to the famous sprinter who also hails from Jamaica. “He has a great chance now. He’s young and has to learn that he has great quality – he’s fast and scores goals. For a young player, he’s very talented.”
That ability and breakaway speed made it a no-brainer for Vancouver to select Mattocks with the second overall pick of this year’s SuperDraft after the Montreal Impact overlooked him in favor of Andrew Wenger.
Mattocks has shown during this preseason that he’s more than just a runner, and has a powerful strike with both feet. As it turned out, he saved his most emphatic demonstration of those qualities for the team that passed on him, scoring a fizzing left-footed shot in Vancouver’s 3-0 victory over the Impact last weekend.
Mattocks’ ability to accelerate, matched with his composure in front of goal, is drawing comparisons to some of the finest players to grace MLS.
“He reminds me a lot of Jeff Cunningham,” Atiba Harris said, name-dropping the MLS all-time leading goal scorer. “He could do a lot of great things in this league, even this season. When we go to stadiums with bigger fields, I think he’s going to cause a lot of trouble.
“In this league, guys with pace can really cause problems for defenses.”
That ability to stretch the defense has often been cited by head coach Martin Rennie during interviews when asked to describe what will set Mattocks apart from the other strikers in the squad. With such a deep attacking group, having that distinct attribute should mean the 21-year-old will get his chances to play, particularly as a substitute running at defenders with tired legs.
“He has great qualities,” playmaker Davide Chiumiento said. “He’s really, really fast. If he improves and learns how to move, he can score a lot of goals in this league and be really dangerous. If he gets good balls from behind, he can be a surprise.”
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com.