Jamaica didn't beat Uruguay in their first match of the 2015 Copa America, giving up an ugly goal in the second half in a 1-0 loss, but they did have one ray of hope come out of their match: the performance of one Darren Mattocks.
The 24 year old striker, who plays his club ball with the Vancouver Whitecaps in MLS, may not have scored a goal, but he still turned in an excellent performance in perhaps the highest-level match he's played. Against an opposition that featured Edinson Cavani, Diego Godin, Alvaro Pereira, and Maxi Pereira, Mattocks didn't look one bit out of place, going toe-to-toe with all of them and coming out the other side not just in one piece, but looking all the better for having gone through that challenge.
Mattocks was the best player out on the pitch for Jamaica today, harrying Uruguay's back line to create problems for the defending Copa America champs and consistently being the most dangerous Jamaica player going forward when the Reggae Boyz launched a counter-attack. His athleticism and quickness created matchup concerns for Uruguay, and even when he wasn't on the ball in attack, Mattocks frequently pulled either Rodin or Jose Gimenez out of position for his strike partner, Giles Barnes, to try to exploit.
Of course, not everything was all roses and sunshine for Mattocks -- he had Jamaica's best scoring chance of the match, but was left hanging his head in shame instead of celebrating. In the first half, Mattocks cut across the Uruguay defense from the left with a move that made Gimenez stumble. That gave Mattocks the space he needed to shoot and put Jamaica ahead -- but he didn't get a clean strike on the ball, and the chance was dead.
That's been one of the issues with Mattocks in his career, an almost infuriating lack of consistency that rears its head in big moments. It's been a major source of frustration ever since he turned pro, and at 24 you'd expect that to be gone by now. That it's not is a major source of concern, and it may limit just how much better he can really get.
Still, that bad moment aside, you have to come away feeling good about how Mattocks performed today. He stood up against two very good center backs who humble some top-notch strikers over in Europe, and got the better of them more often than not. If he can do more of that and have less moments like his agonizing miss, both he and Jamaica will have a lot of reason to hope for a bright future.
Jamaica were invited to this edition of the Copa America mostly to serve as cannon fodder to CONMEBOL teams. When they were drawn against Argentina and Uruguay, two of the four best teams in South America, no one expected them to do much of anything in the tournament. Now that they've given Uruguay all they could handle, largely thanks to Mattocks, those expectations might need to be revised. If Mattocks plays like this in the CONCACAF Gold Cup later this summer, Jamaica might just be able to cause a few surprises there as well.