VANCOUVER - There were times this season when Camilo seemed lost in coach Martin Rennie's lone-striker system.
The nifty, diminutive forward who led the Vancouver Whitecaps in scoring last year took on a more defensive role while playing on the left side behind a lone striker such as Darren Mattocks or Kenny Miller.
His strike rate suffered but the team stayed in playoff contention all season – a far cry from the post-season writeoff it was at the halfway point last year.
But the scoring-challenged club recently returned to a two-striker system and Camilo has regained his scoring touch as one of Rennie's two options up front.
The 24-year-old Brazilian broke a prolonged scoring slump two weeks ago by playing a pivotal role in every goal when the Caps dismantled Chivas USA 4-0.
He was officially credited with one goal and two assists.
“I play wherever the coach wants me to play but when I play on the left, I have to defend more and it's hard for me to get into the box,” he said Monday in his improving English after the Caps trained at Burnaby Lake.
“Now I play (in a two-forward system) and this is my position. I'm closer to the box and I get more chances.”
Camilo scored 12 goals and added three assists in his rookie Major League Soccer campaign last year when he was voted the Caps' MVP. He made just $133,545 in 2011 but the club rewarded his efforts with a $104,000 raise this season.
Camilo insists he never felt any added pressure to perform because of his new contract and feels his offensive output this season – five goals and seven assists so far – is “not bad.”
“The year hasn't gone like I wanted but soccer is like that,” he said. “We are close to the playoffs and I feel very confident right now.”
Camilo is especially pleased to have more than doubled his assist total from last season and admits he's probably a less selfish player now than he was last year, when he only had a one-year contract and was anxious to prove himself.
“Last year it was just me and Eric (Hassli) on top and I didn't have too many chances to pass,” he said. “But this year the midfield is more involved (in the attacking play) so I have more options.”
Rennie said Camilo has accepted his defensive responsibilities this season and has clearly improved that part of his game.
“Now he has his confidence back and he's on a run and seems to be in a good place mentally,” he said. “He definitely has a lot of quality and can be a game-winner for us.”
Rennie feels Camilo is a clean finisher with a powerful strike and a player who's acutely aware of what's going on around the box.
“The more we can get him near the goal, the better,” he said. “ . . . People seem to forget he's still a young player who's developing and getting better all the time.”
Camilo is already a seasoned soccer globetrotter, with playing stints in Malta and South Korea before he joined the Whitecaps last year, and Middle Eastern clubs were rumoured to have been interested in his services last year. He doesn't rule out a return to Europe one day if the conditions are right.
“I want to stay in Vancouver as long as possible,” he said. “But if I have a chance to go to Europe, it might be a big opportunity.”
SIDE KICKS: Rennie wasn't happy with the 6-0 loss suffered by Caps reserves
against Los Angeles Galaxy reserves in LA last week but enjoyed the chance to watch younger players and those who haven't played much recently, including forward Omar Salgado.
He said Salgado looked “good and fit and strong” in his 75-minute appearance and feels he's in contention to make the 18-man roster for the crucial home game against Portland on Sunday. The Caps can clinch a playoff spot with a win over the Timbers.
Forward Darren Mattocks, who's recovering from a hamstring injury, had a fever Monday and missed the training session in Burnaby.
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