Gordon Williams, Gleaner Writer
The expanding influence of Jamaicans on North America's top professional football league will be on show when Major League Soccer (MSL) kicks off its 2012 season this weekend.
Twenty-one-year-old rookie striker Darren Mattocks is expected to debut for Vancouver Whitecaps, which selected him second overall in the MLS SuperDraft, against fellow Canadian club Montreal Impact. The former Bridgeport High star impressed during preseason, scoring against the Impact, which feature veteran Reggae Boyz Donovan Ricketts and Shavar Thomas.
Also today, when Colorado Rapids host Columbus Crew, national striker Omar Cummings will hope to bounce back from an inconsistent 2011 season for the Rapids when he scored three times, compared to 16 goals in 2010. Cummings, entering his sixth MLS season, is recovering from an ankle injury.
"It's just a little bit sore," he told MLSsoccer.com, "but hopefully, with maintenance, it'll be O.K."
Also on the Rapids roster are 37-year-old defender Tyrone Marshall, who began his MLS career in 1998, and Anthony Wallace, a United States-born midfielder/ defender with Jamaican roots.
Left fullback Shaun Francis enters his third MLS year with the Crew, but his starting job appears under threat following a shaky preseason.
Midfielder Khari Stephenson begins his fourth MLS campaign when his San Josť Earthquakes host the New England Revolution today. Simon Dawkins, an England-born midfielder with Jamaican connections, is currently on loan to the Earthquakes from English Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur.
When the Los Angeles Galaxy host Real Salt Lake today, retired Reggae Boy Andy Williams will swap his RSL player's jersey for an assistant coach's clipboard.