Is Camilo the real deal?

Jessica Haydahl

After a breakout 2011 season, injuries and a crowded roster saw Camilo's production dip severely this year. Was 2012 an apparition, or is the young Brazilian simply a one year wonder?

A team leading twelve goals for Camilo in 2011 set the bar pretty high for 2012. After all, the Whitecaps were entering 2012 with 'the big three', of Sebastien Le Toux, Eric Hassli and the 24 year old Brazilian, all three of whom had reached double digits in goals in 2011. Midway through the season, Le Toux and Hassli would be gone, while Camilo would find himself in a dogfight for playing time up front, due to a mixture of injuries and uninspired play. By the end of the season however, Camilo turned it on, including an inspiring four point night against Chivas USA. It looked like the crafty striker had found his way back, but then he would not score again for the final three matches of the season.

So what the heck happened? Hell, last year, Camilo was seen as the 'reliable' striker in comparison to Eric Hassli. After all, Hassli started strong, then went through a lengthy goal drought to end the campaign. In comparison, Camilo was the one that seemed to only get stronger as the year wore on, establishing himself as a legitimate striker, and also sewing up the team MVP award. He was the consistent, low maintenance star that dazzled more often than not.

Well, to start, Camilo sustained a quad injury early in the season. That meant he saw limited duty early on, usually coming on in a relief role for a club that desperately needed offense. Plus, the 'Caps were intent on adding more offense up front the entire season, meaning there was more competition than last year for Camilo to get his minutes. First, there was Sebastien Le Toux and Hassli to compete with, and midseason, that turned to Dane Richards, Darren Mattocks and Kenny Miller. In addition, in 2011 and the beginning of the season, Camilo was the go to guy for set pieces. He was literally the only guy taking corners and free kicks, but that changed with the addition of Barry Robson and his strong left foot. (Yes, I've been quite hard on Robson, but there's no denying that he's quite adept at set pieces)

The reduced responsibility appeared to light a fire under Camilo up a bit, and though his production raised only slightly, his overall play was noticably better. Camilo is at his best when he's making swift runs, using deft cut-in moves and unleashing tricky yet accurate shots. He seemed to re-discover his superb dribbling skills, and put it to great use against Chivas USA. In a match that the 'Caps needed to win, Camilo scored a gritty, sliding goal and helped set up three more. That being said, let's be honest here; Chivas USA is not Manchester United. Yes, he had a great match, no one can deny that; however, it would've been a little more convincing if the 'Caps were playing a decent soccer club.

In any case, the question needs to be asked; is Camilo a one hit wonder? Or is he a guy that the Whitecaps should be counting on to lead the club in 2013? With the emergence of Darren Mattocks, Camilo doesn't even need to be the best striker on the roster anymore, although he definitely has the tools to do so. In my opinion, Camilo is the real deal, and at age 24, he's a guy the 'Caps can definitely afford to wait around for. I think that 2012 was a five goal season because of the bothersome quad injury, and that he will rebound next season, should the Whitecaps not trade him. In a nutshell, the 12 goal mark isn't going to be a career high for Camilo if he manages to stay healthy.

Especially if he manages to forge some semblance of chemistry with Darren Mattocks, which isn't completely out of the realm of possibility. However, he does need to tweak some aspects of his game. For example, this dude needs to learn to spread the ball more. Yes, he is damn impressive one on one; I mean, does anyone in the MLS work the cut in move like Camilo? However, often times he manages to corner himself, waiting far too long to pass. Then it's just a matter of a strong challenge, or a deflected pass, and a promising looking rush is gone by the wayside, and a counter attack has been launched. That needs to change, especially when you have teammates with the talent level of a Mattocks.

Plus, take a look at when he scores his goals. Last season, he had just five goals, but one was against Sporting Kansas City, a very good team, one was against Seattle, and one was against Conference rival Dallas FC. If you're only going to score a handful of goals in a season, it's always a good sign if you're doing it against the best. Plus, I think Camilo will forever be on my 'good' list because of the Sporting Kansas City match in 2011, when he scored twice in stoppage time.

So what do you think? Is Camilo the real deal, or was he just the best player on a bad team in 2011? As always, I welcome your opinions in the comments section.

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