Camilo Sanvezzo made sure Young-Pyo Lee entered retirement on a winning note.
The flashy Brazilian buried his 20th, 21st and 22nd goals of the season Sunday to finish as the top scorer in Major League Soccer as the Vancouver Whitecaps ended 2013 on a high note by defeating the Colorado Rapids 3-0.
Sanvezzo scored in the 43rd, 74th and 85th minutes to clinch the Golden Boot in what was the 36-year-old Lee's final game as a professional after Colorado eliminated Vancouver from playoff contention last weekend.
"I'm very proud. Tonight the players helped me a lot [and] gave me lots of chances," said Camilo. "For sure [I could have] scored five goals."
Sanvezzo stepped up to the penalty spot in the 43rd minute after Kekuta Manneh was brought down in the area and blasted a shot past Colorado goalkeeper Clint Irwin.
After the goal, Sanvezzo presented the ball to Lee, who participated in three World Cups and had a long club career in Asia and Europe before joining the Whitecaps in 2011.
'I'm very proud. Tonight the players helped me a lot [and] gave me lots of chances. For sure [I could have] scored five goals.' - Whitecaps' Camilo Sanvezzo
"I retired from soccer tonight, but I'm feeling so happy [at] this moment because it is exactly what I wanted," said Lee. "I will never forget the last two years in Vancouver."
Whitecaps head coach Martin Rennie said Lee brought nothing but class during his time with the club.
"He's an incredible person, an incredible character," said Rennie. "At no point in time has he ever thought of himself as too big for anything or too good for anybody and it's just amazing that someone that's achieved as much as he has is as humble as he is."
After missing a couple of other chances, Sanvezzo danced around a Rapids defender in the 74th minute to tie Mike Magee of the Chicago Fire for the MLS lead in goals with 21. That strike gave Sanvezzo the league's Golden Boot award because he has more assists than Magee.
But not wanting to leave any doubt, the 25-year-old completed the hat trick in the 85th minute after taking a through ball and one-touching a shot past a helpless Irwin to send the crowd of 21,000 at B.C. Place Stadium into a frenzy. Sanvezzo, who took off his jersey to celebrate, almost had his third just moments earlier, but saw his effort cleared off the line.
"Throughout a long season it takes a consistent goal scorer to win the Golden Boot," said Vancouver captain Jay DeMerit. "These things are not by fluke.
"It shows the qualities that Camilo has and brings to our team."
The Whitecaps (13-12-9) saw their post-season hopes crushed eight days earlier when the Rapids (14-11-9), who wound up with the final Western Conference playoff spot, defeated Vancouver 3-2 in Commerce City, Colo.
Leading 1-0 after half-time on Sunday, Sanvezzo had a chance to double Vancouver's lead in the 48th minute, but his free kick from the left sailed harmlessly over the net.
Vancouver defender Sam Adekugbe made the first professional start of his career and saved a goal three minutes later by clearing the ball away from Edson Buddle after a stop by Whitecaps goalkeeper David Ousted.
'It was really exciting'
"It was really exciting. Once I got a few touches on the ball I just felt confident. I was able to do some of the stuff I do best," said the 18-year-old Adekugbe. "Definitely a great experience."
After Sanvezzo scored his second and third goals of the night to put the game out of reach, Lee was substituted in stoppage time to a rousing ovation from both fans and players.
"Everything he does, he does with class, and that filters down through the team and through this organization and we were very lucky to have him," said DeMerit. "I think it was important for us to send him off on the right note because he deserves it."
Added Sanvezzo: "He's not just a good player. He's a good person."
Sanvezzo was pretty good himself on this night
A man possessed all game, his first chance came in the 11th minute when he forced Irwin into a diving save. The Colorado goalkeeper then made another stop three minutes later when Vancouver defender Brad Rusin got his head to Sanvezzo's corner.
The Rapids' best chance of the first half came in the 30th minute when Gabriel Torres, who scored twice against the Whitecaps last weekend, fired a shot that Ousted pushed to his right. The ball fell into the path of an onrushing Colorado player, but Rusin and Ousted combined to keep it out.
Sanvezzo scuffed a shot in the 37th minute, but wouldn't be denied on his penalty kick six minutes later that got the ball rolling for Vancouver.
"As a team, we came into tonight making sure that this is what we wanted to happen," said DeMerit. "There was an effort behind that.
"There was a lot of emotion on a lot of different occasions tonight."