Soccer Down Here
Darwin Matheus Is Finding His Feet
by Jarrett Smith
Grab your bag and step off the plane.
Welcome to Atlanta.
It is hot and muggy, but no big deal... so is your hometown and most people do not consider that to be a huge deal. But most people are not 19-year-old attackers from Venezuela making the jump to a new country. Most people are not Darwin Matheus.
Matheus got his start at Zamora FC in his hometown of Barinas, Venezuela. He broke through during the Clausura in late 2018, bagging two goals in seven appearances. Only 16 at the time, Matheus saw his side lift a trophy that year after defeating Deportivo Lara in the Championship Finals.
“I feel very proud of those moments,” said Matheus when speaking about the title in year one and his time at Zamora. “The most important thing is to enjoy it and it was a short journey but filled with a lot of happiness.”
Matheus came to Atlanta United 2 before this season started and has continued a growing trend of Venezuelan players making the move to the United States to ply their trade. He joined countryman Ronald Hernandez in the transition after Hernandez departed Aberdeen. Of course, there was already a fellow member of La Vinotinto in Atlanta to help the transition for both players.
“It doesn’t need to be said all of the things that Josef has accomplished with the club,” said Matheus. “I’ve felt close to them (Martinez and Hernandez) and they’ve helped me and told me about the club.”
As he has settled in with the squad, there have been some up and down moments so far. He started off the season playing plenty of minutes and contributed an assist in the 5-0 demolition of Tulsa FC in May, but was quiet on the scoresheet otherwise as Atlanta United 2 worked to find its footing in a competitive central division with Tony Annan during the first six games before Jack Collision stepped into the job. For Matheus, the struggles were tough early on, as he found himself playing frequently against players older and more experienced than he, while trying to adapt to a new culture.
“The start of the season, I can say that maybe it didn’t start off the best,” said Matheus. “But the understanding of training, the adaptation, the different language, were things I’d never experienced or felt. But now I have a little more confidence and a lot of goals to achieve.”
For Matheus, those were more than just empty words as he turned Fifth Third Bank Stadium on its ear in early July with a 94th minute penalty to rescue a draw against Memphis. A month later, he would once again rescue the 2s with a late equalizer- this time in Birmingham and this time in the 96th minute. After pulling that late iron out of the fire, Head Coach Jack Collison praised his progress.
“As a group, we were so pleased for Darwin to get his goal,” said Collison. ”He has worked like an animal.”
A week after that, he came as close as you are likely to see to a Gordie Howe hat trick in soccer, with a goal, an assist, and a yellow card in 55 minutes against Indy Eleven.
Matheus has three goals and an assist in the last five games for Atlanta United 2 as the squad deals with a compressed schedule and heavy lineup rotation. Matheus’ growth has mirrored the team; finding confidence and success. However, confidence and success are only steps to the big goals.
“I hope to give a lot of joy to the team and qualify for the playoffs,” said Matheus.
With the growth and maturation of this young squad, a first ever playoff appearance for Atlanta United 2 is looking more and more probable.