Growth. The process of developing or maturing physically, mentally or spiritually.
When asked to describe his 2022 season in one word, Vancouver Whitecaps FC wingback Ryan Raposo said “Growth.”
“Obviously, I hit a lot of career-bests and highs in goals, assists, minutes and games played,” explained Raposo.
“Also [grew] off the field, on the field, everything, it’s been a good year for myself.”
The beginning of the 23-year-old’s year of growth came on April 2, when he made his first start of the season against Sporting Kansas City at BC Place.
After the ‘Caps pushed all match to break the deadlock, Raposo would clutch up in the 73rd minute by sliding in his first MLS goal to secure the first three points of the season for the Blue and White.
“As you see in the goal, I don’t even know how to celebrate,” said Raposo.
“I kind of just collapse because I’m just in disbelief that I scored, it’s a lot of emotions all at once.”
Raposo, who was selected by the 'Caps fourth overall in the 2020 MLS SuperDraft, was also fortunate to have his family in the stands to watch him play on the day, as his mom flew in from Toronto the morning of the game.
“I can’t even put it into words, it’s a dream come true, it’s special for those type of moments to happen with family and friends watching,” described Raposo.
As mentioned before, Raposo’s first goal opened the floodgates for his growth, but it didn't come without perseverance.
The native of Hamilton, Ontario pushed himself to reach a new-found level of confidence, one that allowed him to be the player he's always believed in.
"Something that I've always lacked here was confidence that I've played with my whole life as a kid and even in college. In my first two years here, I lacked it, I lacked it big-time, the confidence to take players on, the confidence to make plays that I know I'm capable of," recalled Raposo.
"I think after that first goal went in and with Vanni trusting me and playing me regularly, I think that's a huge thing also getting consistent minutes, where you feel like you have the trust of the coach, it makes the world of a difference."
And through it all, the Canadian achieved growth.
Raposo finished the season with three goals as well as three assists in 21 starts and 34 appearances across both MLS and Canadian Championship play, all while learning to adjust to playing as a wingback.
He also received the Canadian Championship's Best Young Canadian Player Award, becoming the first 'Caps player to do so since the award was introduced in 2019.
Additionally, Raposo made it a priority to stay at a consistent fitness level throughout the season, becoming one of the few players on the roster to be available for selection for all 38 games in 2022.
“That’s probably something that I’m most proud of this year, because in the years prior I’ve had injury issues," said Raposo.
"At this level, if you sit out you could lose your opportunity to continue playing so I think it’s about pushing yourself.”
For Raposo, he's touched each of the three cornerstones of growth throughout the season, whether it be physical, mental or spiritual. Now, he's hoping the lessons he's learnt from this year's growth can help propel him to even greater heights in 2023.
“I always know there’s room for improvement so coming into the next season, I’m hoping to increase and play in more games, play more minutes, score more goals and help the team in anyway I can.”
Raposo and the rest of the squad will look to keep fit during the offseason, as the 'Caps prepare for a 2023 season that'll see them compete in MLS, Concacaf Champions League, Leagues Cup and Canadian Championship play.
"Now going into this offseason healthy, I'm hoping to build on everything, mentally, physically and tactically," said Raposo. "Next year we have Champions League, we have a bunch of competitions that we'll be playing in so everyone's going to have opportunities and I know I'm going to be ready whenever it's my time."
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