“Personally, I’ll be honest with you, it’s been indifferent,” Mattocks admitted mid-March while describing his Major League Soccer (MLS) career.
Much was expected of the striker when Vancouver Whitecaps made him the second overall pick in the 2012 SuperDraft out of the University of Akron, where he piled up goals at an impressive rate – 39 in 47 games - and won a college national championship. As a rookie, Mattocks quickly justified the club’s faith, scoring six goals in his first nine MLS games and captivated fans with his speed, power and flamboyant personality. His seven goals for the season led the club and Mattocks was touted among MLS’s top young players.
But problems came early. A kitchen accident left him with severe burns that cost him chunks of playing time in 2012. In 2013 he scored only three goals from 20 games; six in 30 the following year; and three in 22 in 2015. Mattocks would eventually play 93 games for Vancouver, netting 19 goals, hardly the return the club hoped.
In 2016, Vancouver traded Mattocks to the Portland Timbers, where his former college coach Caleb Porter was in charge. The future looked promising again. But again Mattocks suffered from inconsistent playing time and managed just five goals in 43 appearances.
“It has been more down than up,” Mattocks said of his sputtering MLS run. “I mean, I won’t deny that. But we see all the time where players just need a change to excel in their career.”
By the end of the 2017 MLS season, Mattocks was again on the move. He signed with D.C. United “more calm” than his earlier years, Mattocks said, and immediately became a starter. In the second match of the 2018 season against Atlanta United Football Club here, Mattocks latched onto a deflected ball and confidently rammed home his first goal. The following weekend he scored again, against Houston Dynamo.
For him, the D.C. move is a platform to re-launch his flagging career. “Playing time,” he said, will be the key to his resurgence.
“A breakout season, definitely, God’s willing,” Mattocks explained. “… I definitely think that this is the re-birth of Darren Mattocks … There’s a lot of work to do, but I see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
He’s right about work. Mattocks missed at least two other clear scoring chances against AUFC in his team’s 3-1 loss. But one goal, he believes, can jumpstart his fortunes.
“Hopefully the flood gates will open and I’ll be scoring goals,” Mattocks said. “As a striker you always look to try to get off as soon as possible.”
It’s the plan Mattocks has now. He’s hoping it sticks.