Tommy Heinemann has always tried to stay ready on the bench for calls that have rarely come.
But on Sunday, the Vancouver Whitecaps striker, substituting on with 10 minutes left in the game, received a chance — and made the best of it.
Heinemann's goal in stoppage time gave the Whitecaps a dramatic 2-2 Major League Soccer draw with Chivas U.S.A. before a crowd of 18,767 at B.C. Place Stadium.
"It's good to get a point, but ultimately, I think we're all really disappointed that we didn't win," said Heinemann in a subdued Whitecaps dressing room.
Heinemann scored his first goal of the season as he volleyed Erik Hurtado's diving header home just moments before the final whistle. With the goal, Heinemann, 26, enabled the Whitecaps (10-9-7) to overcome a 2-0 deficit and avoid a humiliating loss.
The Goats (5-14-7), last in the Western Conference by a wide margin, were denied a second consecutive victory, which would have been only their second triumph since May.
"I'm happy with the development of Chivas in the game, but angry for the result because 2-0 was a big opportunity to win the game," said Goats coach Jose Luis Real. "Maybe two mistakes in defence a and we lost the opportunity to get our second win [in a row.]"
Despite the Whitecaps' disappointment, Heinemann found personal satisfaction. He signed with the Whitecaps in the off-season after being released by the Columbus Crew following just five minute of playing time in 2012 due to a left knee injury that required microfracture surgery.
"It means a lot," he said of the goal. "I'm excited to get my first one in front of the home fans. It's just an incredible atmosphere to play in. I think tonight (fans) deserve more, but at least we got one [point]."
He has logged just 165 minutes in 11 games this season while starting just one.
"Coming off the bench is different from starting a game, and I have had to do that in several different instances over my career," said Heinemann, who is in his third MLS season after two campaigns with Columbus. "So [I've been] just getting myself in the mindset to gear myself up physically to do anything I can to help."
Gershon Koffie, in the 64th minute, also scored for the Whitecaps after rookie Erick Torres had staked Chivas to its lead with a pair of first-half goals.
Torres now has four goals in his past two games. The 20-year-old has recorded six goals in only seven MLS career games, all starts.
Chivas acquired him on loan in July from his hometown club, also Chivas' parent organization, Club Deportivo Guadalajara of the Mexican League.
The Whitecaps moved into a tie for sixth place in the Western Conference with Dallas. The Caps also avoided a third consecutive loss before three road games in Dallas, San Jose and Montreal.
"Sometimes you have to scrap it out, and today we did that," said Whitecaps coach Martin Rennie. "It seemed like we weren't going to get that goal, but credit to our team, they kept going all the way to the very end. And, I think that's a really important point."
The Whitecaps entered the game looking to make amends for two straight shutout losses. The hosts were wary of taking Chivas lightly after the Los Angeles-based club upset the New York Red Bulls last weekend, but the visitors still surprised the Caps by getting a pair of early goals.
Camilo started for Vancouver after watching the previous game against the L.A. Galaxy from the bench due to a slight groin strain. He struggled to get in sync with fellow Kenny Miller and rookie Kekuta Manneh, 18, who excelled in a rare start on the right wing. It was only Manneh's third start of the season.
For the second consecutive game, the Whitecaps allowed a goal in the third minute as Torres scored on a stunning bicycle kick from 13 yards out. After Whitecaps central defender Andy O'Brien headed a Carlos Alvarez cross straight up in the air, Torres went horizontal and booted the ball into the top left corner of the net as Vancouver goalkeeper David Ousted leaped in vain.
"It's a duel, and it goes up in the air," said Ousted. "And, instead of attacking it, we're looking at it, and then he just gets to do the bicycle thing. ... It's a nice move, but we just can't allow those kinds of goals."
Torres struck again in the 14th minute as he headed in a well-placed cross from Edgar Meja, who deked a couple of defenders on the right flank and sent the ball into the centre of Vancouver's 18-yard box. Torres, listed at five-foot-11, did well to get in front of taller Caps central defender O'Brien, who stands six-foot-three, and connect on the ball before he could.
After the second Torres goal, Chivas was content to go into a defensive shell and neither he nor his mates generated much offensively. But despite controlling possession, the Whitecaps miscommunicated, and failed to finish on a number of chances.
Koffie started the comeback after Chivas goalkeeper Dan Kennedy ran out of the box to the left flank to play a loose ball, but kicked it to him and could not get back to the net in time.
O'Brien was pulled in favour of Heinemann as an extra striker, setting the stage for the tying goal. Hurtadol, a second-half substitute who has also received limited action, made amends for a bad miss with his assist on the tying goal.
"Not a lot of teams have that in them to come back so that just shows the character of this team," said Hurtado, a 22-year-old rookie.
But Vancouver striker Miller criticized his club for defending Torres poorly on his bicycle kick, and goalkeeper Ousted said the Caps must learn from their mistakes.
"And, going on the road now," said Ousted. "I think we have a tough task."
Notes: Vancouver captain Jay DeMerit, recovering from a torn Achilles tendon, remained out of the lineup. ... Whitecaps midfielder Matt Watson made a rare second-consecutive start. ... Vancouver midfielder Russell Teibert was replaced by Erik Hurtado in the 55th minute for tactical reasons. Teibert left after the game for a Canadian national team camp with new coach Benito Floro in Spain.