It's been something of an up-and-down season for the Vancouver Whitecaps' Darren Mattocks, but the Jamaican striker returned to the starting lineup on Wednesday evening, grabbing the go-ahead goal in the 1-1 draw with Toronto FC.
The strike was Mattocks' third of the season but his first goal in three months, as first a hamstring injury and then the form of fellow striker Erik Hurtado saw him reduced to a bench role.
In the past, this scenario would have perhaps frustrated the 23-year-old, but it is a new season and Mattocks has a new attitude after his now infamous interview on Jamaican television in the offseason where he spoke about the Whitecaps not fully utilizing his talents.
Mattocks has come across as a more mature player under head coach Carl Robinson, happy to play whatever role helps the team – but still with a confident swagger.
“I’m a very humble, patient guy, and I’m always going to be confident,” Mattocks told reporters this week. “That is one thing that no one is ever going to take away from me.”
Another sign of this new humility came after Wednesday night’s match when Mattocks played down his role in the goal and was instead keen to see all the credit go to young Canadian Russell Teibert, who delivered the low, pinpoint cross into the box.
“I mean, it was a fantastic pass,” Mattocks said. “I think Russell deserves all the credit for that goal and the build-up play by the team. For him to pick out a pass like that, it’s really amazing. I told him that I wish it was his goal, to be honest. I saw him drill it through four or five guys.”
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Mattocks now hopes the goal will see him return to a regular starting spot and is looking to build it in Saturday’s crucial Western Conference clash with Real Salt Lake (10 pm ET; TSN in Canada, MLS Live), a match which would see Vancouver leapfrog their hosts with a win.
With Vancouver’s offense sputtering slightly after the World Cup break, the chance is there for one of their young strikers to really step up and make the job their own if they can find the needed consistency.
“Erik has played fantastic, and is still doing fantastic,” Mattocks said. “We’re going to need depth on this team to go where we want to go. For me, to get back in the team and to put the goal in the back of the net is huge for me, but it still keeps me grounded, it still keeps me humble. I’ve got to keep working extremely hard to get myself on the team and to score goals and to get this team forward.”