PORTLAND, Ore.—Fresh off of winning a national championship under Caleb Porter at Akron, the Vancouver Whitecaps selected Darren Mattocks with the second pick in the 2012 SuperDraft. He'd go on to immediately show promise, leading Vancouver with with seven goals as a rookie and scoring the first MLS Cup Playoff goal in the team's history.
But injuries, inconsistency, and coaching decisions eventually left the striker starting in fewer than a third of the Whitecaps games, and soon, it was pretty clear his time in Vancouver would be drawing to a close.
Still, many were surprised that Mattocks would be traded to Vancouver’s hated Cascadian rivals, reuniting the striker with Porter. And since, it's gone pretty much as both of them had hoped.
“There’s no secret I’m a big fan of Darren Mattocks,” Porter said following the Timbers' 3-0 shellacking of Orlando City on Sunday night. Mattocks not only scored in that match himself, but also set up the first goal after he was dragged down from behind by Orlando defender Jonathan Spector.
In fact, Mattocks' recent run of form for the Timbers has proven a silver lining to Fanendo Adi's injury. The latter hasn’t returned to training since sustaining an injury during Portland's Aug. 6 contest against the Galaxy. In his place, a healthy Mattocks has followed his successful Gold Cup performance with Jamaica by finding his groove with his club team.
While teammate Diego Valeri’s record nine consecutive matches with a goal streak is generating the headlines, Mattocks has been quietly producing as well. He's provided two goals and an assist in Portland's last three home matches, all wins. On Sunday, Mattocks also became the first Timbers player to have six or more shots on goal in a single MLS match, joining David Villa and Sebastian Giovinco as the only players to do this in 2017.
"We’ve tried to define that to where he’s playing to his strengths," Porter said. "His strengths are he covers a lot of ground, he’s quick, he closes space, he presses well. In looking to run behind and stretch, that’s where he can be dangerous, threatening the back four. I thought that was his best game.”
Unlike the defenders he leaves in his wake, though, Mattocks is not getting ahead of himself. “It’s very good to have this performance. It’s good to remind yourself what you’re capable of doing,” he said to assembled media following Sunday's mattch. “Even though I know what I can do, it doesn’t always show, and tonight was a perfect example of what I’m capable of doing.”
Mattocks and his teammates are on the same page about this. When Mattocks makes runs into dangerous positions, he knows his teammates will find him, as evidenced by his goal in the 29th minute.
“I made the run and they found the pass. It’s a striker’s dream," he said. "It’s just for me now to put away those chances. It was a pretty good start tonight, so hopefully we can continue this progression. The main goal and focus right now is to finish top of the [Western Conference standings] to get home-field advantage.”