It was, in the words of the announcer, “Brazilian magic.” Camilo Da Silva Sanvezzo, the young star scorer of the surging Vancouver Whitecaps, whose conjuring of great goals has flowed, ebbed and now flows again, corralled a big, arcing pass midway up the offensive end.
Surrounded by two defenders, Camilo pulled in the ball with the inside of his right knee and then, the ball not touching the ground, immediately popped it ahead with his left knee, eluding his first pursuer. The striker tapped the ball farther ahead with a quick right foot, getting by the second man, and burst towards, and into, the penalty box. The first defender had reclaimed ground, making a last stand, but Camilo’s dribbling, a push left, and a swift cut right, shook him and a right-footed blast, from 10 metres out, was instantly in the back of the net.
Watch: Whitecaps 3, Fire 1
It was the 66th minute of a scoreless match last Sunday, Camilo’s 11th goal of the year, and his 12th – to lead all scorers in Major League Soccer – came five minutes later, on a second effort, putting a ball past two defenders after being stymied on a breakaway. The pair propelled his team to yet another win at home, 3-1 over Chicago Fire, and kept the Whitecaps as the only team with an unbeaten home record in league play.
Camilo’s flair, and results, is the current culmination of so much early promise that seemed, at points last year and early this season, to have evaporated. Now, he is a MLS all-star and, for the second time in a month, MLS player of the week – a 180-turn, considering he started the season on the bench and did not play at all in the opener, the same way he ended 2012, watching his team lose its first, and only, playoff game to the Los Angeles Galaxy.
The sudden resurrection has now sparked talk of an eventual move to Europe – and should he stay in Canada, where he is applying for permanent-resident status ahead of possible citizenship, there is potential inclusion on the moribund and woeful national team.
On a sunny Tuesday morning in Vancouver, training ahead of a road trip to face Los Angeles, Camilo was his typical self, humble, hard working, and faithful. After practice, he stayed on for some extra work and coming off the pitch, he quietly made the sign of the cross. A band of wooden beads on his wrist included a small wooden cross.
The 5-foot-7, 155 pound striker was added to the MLS all-star team this week but Camilo credited his team, one that creates far more scoring chances than it had in the past and attacks with more vigour. Kenny Miller, the 33-year-old Scottish international, is a fulcrum of the improvement.
On a climb to Europe, Camilo parried when asked by a small group of reporters. “No, my dream is Vancouver.”
In an interview, however, he acknowledged the lure: “Yeah, maybe. I don’t know. You have to work hard, and if the opportunity come, we have to decide, with my family, with my wife, what’s good for us.”
The rise of Camilo in MLS is as circuitous as the route by which he arrived in North America. Born and raised in Brazil in a small city northwest of Sao Paolo, he was never a player of any particular note, as his father, a mechanic, pushed him to focus on school. Camilo first made his mark in Malta and then after a sojourn in South Korea he arrived in Vancouver and made the expansion team after a tryout. He was an immediate scoring star but the team was terrible. Last year, as the team improved, he wavered and at times made poor choices, trying to do too much himself.
After getting off the bench this year – he had his first start in the fourth game of the year – he has slowly, then suddenly, accelerated. He is on a particularly productive tear – 10 goals and three assists in his past nine games – during which the Whitecaps have run 6-1-2 and climbed from an afterthought to third in the West, with the fourth-best record in the 19-team MLS.
Camilo can conjure magic. The trick now is to pull it off consistently, said Nigel Reo-Coker, the midfielder who has captained teams in the English Premier League. Underpinned by Miller’s presence and work, Camilo has produced “some great moments of individuality.” Reo-Coker recalled some of the top strikers he’s played with, who had the conviction they would score, every game, and delivered.
“He’s got to have that hunger,” said Reo-Coker. “Camilo has the ability. He has to make sure he stays focused.”