VANCOUVER, B.C. – The prodigal son is back, and he hopes to bring goals with him.
As preseason began on Monday, Vancouver Whitecaps striker Darren Mattocks faced the local media for the first time since his bizarre offseason outburst on Jamaican TV, in which he called into question the club's handling of him during the 2013 season.
“I think we all discussed it privately,” Mattocks told reporters of his conversations with head coach Carl Robinson and president Bob Lenarduzzi upon his return. “Obviously it wasn't done with harm or intention behind it, so I totally accept the blame for what I did but I just have to move forward and get past that.”
Last season, Mattocks endured a disappointing sophomore campaign, scoring just three times from 20 appearances after stating during the preseason he was capable of hitting the 20-goal mark.
This, after a rookie season in which he scored seven goals from 15 starts and was named the No. 1 player in MLSsoccer.com's 24 Under 24 series, which ranks the top players younger than age 24 in the league.
In the player's defense, the Jamaican international never started consecutive matches beyond the first four outings of 2013 after falling out of favor with former head coach Martin Rennie, which was hardly the ideal platform for a forward to find his groove.
Not that Rennie had a ton of choice in the matter – with the since-departed Camilo scoring for fun and Kenny Miller and Russell Teibert adding their own firepower to the mix, there simply wasn't a spot for Mattocks.
Now though, with the high-profile and controversial sale of Camilo to Mexican side Querétero FC, and more importantly the departure of his 22 goals, there is a void Mattocks is hoping to fill for the Canadian club.
“It's a really good opportunity,” Mattocks said. “But at the end of the day, it's all up to me working hard and staying focused.”
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As for Robinson, who took control of his players for the first time in front of the cameras on Monday, he's happy to let bygones be bygones if the 23-year-old recaptures the form he showed in his rookie season.
“He's obviously apologized and we've drawn a line under the matter,” Robinson said. “I've spoken to Darren at length about it, and at length about what I see him doing in this next season. It happens in football, but it's important you move on quickly and we've moved on quickly.
“His energy around the place today was fantastic and I've said to the lads, everyone makes mistakes, things happen, but we move on. If Darren scores a couple of goals in the early part of the season, everything will be forgotten.”
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com.