The young guns are firing in Vancouver! Darren Mattocks grabbed the headlines with two goals in the Whitecaps' 3-1 win over Houston on Sunday, but Gershon Koffie was also extremely influential.
Playing the first of three matches in a row at BC Place, the Whitecaps knew the importance of making home advantage count, and they had the perfect start to settle the nerves when Mattocks got on the end of a beautiful cross from veteran YP Lee just three minutes in.
After a grueling month of May, it was good to see the 'Caps look re-energized following their two-week break, and they made no mistake in taking advantage of a weakened Houston side.
Mattocks' qualities are well known. Even before he was drafted, it was predicted his speed would cause major problems for defences in Major League Soccer. That has certainly been the case, but he is also proving he has the ability to finish chances, and that he possesses the sort of striker's instinct that can't be taught.
After the start to his pro career was derailed by a nasty injury sustained while cooking, Mattocks worked his way back into contention and is now making it hard for Head Coach Martin Rennie to leave him out of the team with more experienced forwards such as Eric Hassli and Camilo left on the bench.
On his first MLS start against Seattle, Mattocks squandered four clear cut chances, but he didn't let that get him down. The 21-year-old responded by scoring his first MLS goal to earn the Whitecaps a point on the road at Portland before the break, and showed composure way beyond his years to power his team to a win over the Dynamo. He now has three goals from just five appearances of which only two were starts.
Mattocks is a very good athlete, but Rennie has also been pleased with his attitude. It says a lot about the development of his character that he was able to respond in such a positive manner after finding himself in hospital recovering from burns. In a strange way, it might actually have helped him focus.
Sunday's win wasn't just about Mattocks. In a solid team display, Koffie was another youngster who shone. His ball through for Mattock's second goal was one of the highlights of the match. The Ghanaian curled the pass off the outside of his boot straight into the path of the forward. Mattocks did the rest, but Koffie's vision and execution was superb.
Koffie's display was evidence of the value he can bring to the team. At 20 years old he still has much development ahead of him, but on Sunday night he was able to influence the game in midfield and help create a link between the defence and attack. Last season, Koffie also produced a similar performance against Houston. His display against the Dynamo in Vancouver's 1-0 win at Empire Field last August was arguably his best of the season.
There are interesting decisions ahead for Rennie with the looming arrival of Designated Player Barry Robson. The versatility of Robson allows Rennie to use him in a few different positions across the midfield or as an attacker, playing centrally or wide.
It has been a juggling act already this season as the 'Caps coach has rotated through his attacking options, but Robson's arrival will also give him the ability to change things up in the midfield as well. However, Rennie will be pleased to see the midfielder's already at the club making their mark on matches. What we saw from the Whitecaps in their win against Houston is further evidence of their ability to challenge for a playoff place this year.
Vancouver Whitecaps against New York Red Bulls is live on MLS on TSN on Wednesday, June 20 at 11pm et/8pm pt.