PORTLAND – Since joining the Portland Timbers from the Vancouver Whitecaps early in 2016, Darren Mattocks has faced off against his former side three times. On Saturday, in his first start of the 2017 season, Mattocks grabbed the game winner in a hard-fought 2-1 win over his old team, providing a boost in place of the suspended Fanendo Adi.
With only 66 minutes under his belt in 2017 coming into Saturday’s match, Mattocks stepped seamlessly into Major League Soccer’s most prolific offense at Providence Park.
“You have just got to keep sharp,” Mattocks said after the match. “The guys in the starting lineup have been really good all season, but it is a long season; your chances are going to come. When you get your chance you have got to take it.”
Mattocks did just that in the 40th minute. The Jamaican international took advantage of some fine play from Darlington Nagbe and Diego Valeri to get on the board, racing past Vancouver defender Kendall Waston and into the box as Nagbe found Valeri on the right, then tapping Valeri’s low cross around David Ousted from close-range for the game-winner.
For Valeri, Mattocks’ movement was the key.
“We want him there, running diagonals, and in the box, similar to Adi,” Valeri said after the match. “Obviously he is a different player, but we need to use every single one. We talked with him and every time that we are building a situation we want him there in the box. I am very happy about his run… It was a great goal.”
Of course, Mattocks was just as appreciative of the passing out of the midfield from Valeri and Nagbe, who scored a fantastic goal to put the Timbers up 1-0 in the 18th minute.
“These two guys are amazing,” said Mattocks. “They find passes and that showed on my goal. There was a great run across the box to clear the space, Nagbe found Valeri, and Valeri found me.”
That the goal came against Vancouver, where he recorded 19 goals in 93 appearances in four seasons before being traded to Portland last March, was not something that Mattocks was focused on.
“Before the game I hugged [Whitecaps head coach Carl Robinson],” he said. “There is no bad blood between me and Vancouver whatsoever. I love the city, everyone there is awesome. It is just soccer; you move on.”
However, Mattocks did add that “it was nice to score against them.”