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BY PAUL DANZER/PORTLAND TRIBUNE/Mattocks' potential starts to surface in Portland Timbers win

TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Darren Mattocks has emerged as a speedy threat at forward for the Portland Timbers this season.Fits and starts.

Darren Mattocks lurks along an opponent's backline, waiting for that instant when he can dash forward for a scoring chance — which he did multiple times during Sunday's Portland Timbers win over Orlando City.

Fits and starts.

Mattocks' MLS career has been on and off, mostly because injuries have prevented him from consistent playing time since he entered in 2012 with the Vancouver Whitecaps.

As a rookie, one year removed from scoring 20 goals to help Caleb Porter's Akron Zips to a national college championship and after being the No. 2 pick in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft, Mattocks scored seven goals in 21 games and was named the league's top player younger than 24.

In four seasons with the Whitecaps, the Jamaican played in 133 matches and scored 23 goals.

Hardly eye-popping numbers. Caleb Porter — a big fan of Mattocks — saw something others might not have: a player with game-changing speed and quickness who, when confident, is difficult to defend.

So the Timbers sent some money to Vancouver last season to reunite Mattocks with several Akron teammates and a coach who knows him well.

"My goal in getting him was to work him back into form because he had been sitting (out) for a couple years," Porter says. "So it was a little bit of a rehab project in some ways, to just get him back into form. Get him confident. Get him doing things that he's good at and playing in a way I know that he's capable of."

Injuries and the presence of Fanendo Adi in the striker position, have meant Mattocks has played mostly as a late-game substitute. Since Adi suffered a hamstring injury on Aug. 6 (and as of last week had not returned to training), Mattocks has started six of seven games.

Sunday's performance against Orlando City was his best with the Timbers. The speed of Mattocks and Dairon Asprilla tormented defenders. Set up by a couple of spot-on passes, Mattocks drew an early penalty kick — the third PK he's earned this season — and later got to an Asprilla feed for a point-blank finish.

This play hasn't arrived from nowhere. Helping Jamiaica reach the Gold Cup final this summer — he scored two goals and was a consistent threat in the tournament — boosted Mattocks. He calls his Gold Cup experience "massive."

This time, when Adi was hurt, a confident and hungry Mattocks was ready.

"Feeding off the Gold Cup to finish the season strong is a massive part of what I'm doing," Mattocks says. "But also these (teammates) are fantastic. I'm making runs, and they're finding passes."

They found him so often on Sunday that Mattocks should have scored at least three goals. His six shots on goal were a Timbers' record.

"It's just (important) for me to put away those chances, especially on breakaways, because the guys need assists as much as I need goals," Mattocks says.

Porter, after what he calls Mattocks' "best game" with the Timbers, remains bullish on the 27-year-old forward.

Mattocks "should have had a few others," Porter says. "Those (goals) will fall. The good news is he's getting chances, and I thought (Orlando) had no answer for him."

n No one seems to have an answer for Diego Valeri these days. He scored two more goals against Orlando, the MLS-record ninth consecutive game with a goal pushing him into the league lead with a Timbers-record 20 goals this season — a MLS record for goals by a midfielder.

"Anytime guys are scoring goals at the rate he is, it's a confidence thing," Porter says. "He's been riding this wave. He's always scored goals. He's always played well. But he's (riding) a tidal wave of confidence, and we hope it continues."

n The Timbers play their final away game on Saturday, visiting San Jose for a 7:30 p.m. match. They close with two home matches.

n Last T2 home game: Portland Timbers 2 will play at Providence Park for the final time in 2017 on Wednesday, playing host to Phoenix Rising FC at 7:30 p.m. T2, last in the United Soccer League, will close its third season with four road games.

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