Camilo added some flair to the Vancouver Whitecaps’ battle for a Major League Soccer playoff spot Sunday night.
He scored two highlight-reel goals in a three-minute span — the second on a sideways bicycle kick in the 78th minute — to give the Whitecaps a 2-2 draw with the Portland Timbers before a crowd of 20,303 at B.C. Place Stadium.
“I thought we played very well, and if we continue to play the same way the next three games we’ll have a very good chance,” said Camilo who moved into a tie for second place in MLS scoring with his 17th and 18th goals of the season.
“It’s disappointing (having to come back), but the game was not over so we tried to attack and we were able to score.”
With only three games left in the regular season, the Whitecaps (11-11-9) helped keep their flickering playoff hopes alive by obtaining the single point, but with the L.A. Galaxy beating Chivas U.S.A. earlier in the day, the draw dropped Vancouver to six points out of the last playoff spot in the Western Conference.
The Timbers (12-5-14) missed a chance to move into second place in the West despite extending their unbeaten streak to five games.
Camilo’s tying marker capped a string of three goals in as many minutes.
The Vancouver striker’s two tallies sandwiched one by Portland’s Will Johnson. Even Portland goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts was impressed with Camilo’s second tally.
“That was a special goal,” said Ricketts with a broad smile even though his club was forced to settle for just one point.
Darlington Nagbe scored for Portland in the first half. He and Johnson, the captain of Canada’s national men’s team, assisted on each other’s goals.
“We’re disappointed that we didn’t earn three points,” said Portland defender Jack Jewsbury. “But at the end of the day, you’ve got to congratulate Camilo on two unbelievable, world-class goals.”
Camilo’s first goal came in the 76th minute as he sent a dipping and diving free kick over a Portland wall and bouncing inside the left post to create a 1-1 tie. But with the crowd still cheering, Johnson fired in a Nagbe pass from the top of the Vancouver 18-yard box.
However, moments later, with some in the crowd still groaning, Camilo scored as he went airborne to boot home a pass from Young-Pyo Lee. Darren Mattocks started the play by sending the ball to Lee.
“It was a little wild. I haven’t had a game like that in a while,” said Jewsbury, having trouble recalling another one like it. “(There were) some good plays, some unbelievable strikes.”
Camilo made good on two additional chances after he and second-half substitute Kekuta Manneh were robbed by Ricketts on back-to-back chances in the 75th minute. After foiling Camilo from within 12 yards, Ricketts got up to get his arms on Manneh’s shot off the rebound.
But the entertaining finish was muted by the fact the Caps still face a difficult battle to secure a second consecutive playoff berth.
“Obviously, you’re disappointed that you didn’t get all three (points), because I thought we deserved (a win) tonight,” said Vancouver captain Jay DeMerit, who had called the game a “must-win” a day earlier. “But a point is a point.”
The eventful second half contrasted from a quiet opening 45 minutes as the Whitecaps struggled to adjust to lineup changes and the Timbers took their time getting going.
Vancouver striker Kenny Miller missed his second straight game with a groin injury. As a result, Mattocks made a rare start.
Whitecaps coach Martin Rennie also juggled his lineup by keeping midfielders Russell Teibert and Gershon Koffie on the bench as Matt Watson and Daigo Kobabayashi started in their place. Teibert came on in the second half, but struggled with his crosses.
Nagbe opened the scoring in the 41st minute as, left unmarked outside the top of the Vancouver area, he took a pass from Johnson and fired a shot inside the left post beyond the reach of leaping Vancouver goalkeeper David Ousted.
“It was just a really good strike,” said DeMerit. “It was probably 25, 30 yards out. As a defender, you’re supposed to close right about then. As he started to wind up, he saw us coming out to get the ball, but it was a great shot, curling away from (Ousted), so he didn’t really have much chance to save it.”
Camilo’s heroics overshadowed a strong game from Johnson, who showed a strong midfield presence that Vancouver has lacked for most of the season after failing to woo the Toronto native in the off-season before he joined Portland from Real Salt Lake.
“(Johnson) is a fantastic talent, a guy that we’ve counted on a lot this year,” said Jewsbury. “He’s probably one of the most talented guys I’ve ever played with. a He had a big game.”
With Wednesday’s game in Seattle and home-and-home contests against Colorado to close out the regular season, the Whitecaps will still have a difficult time fulfilling their playoff quest. But, while acknowledging the difficulty, Vancouver goalkeeper Ousted remained optimistic.
“We showed great character today, and I think that bodes well for the future,” he said.
Notes: Mattocks has a difficult decision whether to leave Monday as scheduled for international duty with Jamaica’s nation team or travel to Seattle with the Caps. Jamaica has a World Cup qualifying game against the U.S. on Friday. Mattocks said it’s “50-50” whether he will leave or stay. a During the pre-game ceremonies, players from both teams wore shirts bearing pink ribbons in support of breast cancer research. Some Whitecap players and game officials also wore pink wrist bands, while Ousted wore a pink jersey, shorts and socks, as he has done previously. A pink-striped ball was also used. a Portland goalkeeper Ricketts was cautioned in the 74th minute as he wasted time before attempting a free kick.