BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – Vancouver forward Darren Mattocks poses a mismatch for almost any MLS defender. The quicksilver rookie showed that last week when he basically hurdled Toronto defender Logan Emory, heading home a Jordan Harvey cross in what eventually ended a 3-2 loss for the Whitecaps.
It was a freakishly athletic, jaw-dropping moment. And it hasn’t escaped the notice of guys who are tasked with keeping Mattocks off the scoreboard.
“He showed [Wednesday] that if he gets a free jump, he’s going to try to climb over people,” Fire central defender Austin Berry told MLSsoccer.com. “You need to at least get a hand on him or get a body on him early so he can’t get up like that, kind of shield him off for your goalkeeper to come and get that.”
GOAL: Mattocks climbs over Kocic
Berry will have to deal with the Jamaican when the Whitecaps visit Toyota Park on Saturday (8:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online).
Mattocks’ rise to the upper echelon of his rookie class hasn’t exactly been a surprising one – the number two pick in the draft scored 21 goals in 22 matches at Akron last season, and he joined a team that was starved for production after finishing 2011 dead last in goals. And Mattocks has certainly brought the goods, his brace on Wednesday evening taking his season total to six goals.
Berry, on the other hand, came into the season as the Fire’s fourth choice at center back. But after injuries and suspensions forced him into the starting lineup, he proved his worth and cemented his spot on the team sheet.
“He’s picked up a lot from preseason to now,” forward Dominic Oduro told MLSsoccer.com. “We needed him when it mattered, and he stepped up, and he’s developed to be one of the key guys in the back, which is really good for a rookie.”
Berry played for the Fire PDL team two years ago, and spent time with the first team in training stints. But his 12 starts and a recent stretch of five games in three weeks have taken somewhat of a toll.
“It’s obviously more demanding physically, you’ve just got to be able to do the right things to recover midweek,” Berry said. “You only have a couple of days before games midweek. You’ve got to get enough sleep and you have to put the right foods in your body. You’ve got to make sure with all of the extra time during the day that you’re doing all of the right stuff.”
Luckily, the Fire have had five days off, giving Berry plenty of time to prepare for Mattocks. And Oduro, for one, is confident Berry has what it takes to hold his own.
“While he’s in the air, you can see he’s really strong, I think that’s one of his qualities,” Oduro said. “I try as much as possible to outrun him, but he’s physical, he can keep up with you in terms of being physical, and he’ll outsmart you.”