Vancouver Whitecaps FC defender Matteo Campagna has been with the club since the age of 13.
He’s a Surrey, BC boy who’s grown up seeing the ‘Caps evolve during their MLS era.
He’s come through the BMO Academy system, playing with the club’s U-14 to U-17 sides and also represented Canada at the 2019 Concacaf U-15 Boys Championship.
Through all his hard work and dedication, Campagna was rewarded with a first team contract in April 2021, becoming the 24th academy graduate to ink an MLS Homegrown contract.
Unfortunately, the 18-year-old was unable to play competitive minutes week-in, week-out in his first season as a professional due to a number of factors.
However, that all changed in 2022 thanks to the re-introduction of the club’s second team, Whitecaps FC 2 (WFC2), as the team joined MLS NEXT Pro in its inaugural season.
Campagna went on to start 12 of his 16 appearances for WFC2 in 2022, playing regular minutes in a competitive environment to help continue his development.
“I think it’s really important that the second team started up again, I think it’s a really good step for all the players that are trying to get into the first team. Especially for me, it’s a big thing because I need minutes to always be prepared for the first team, be ready to play. It’s also a good level, where everyone’s fighting. We got off to a good start and there’s some very good teams. We beat St. Louis who’s going to MLS next year and there’s some good players on there.”
In addition to gaining experience and playing competitive minutes, Campagna split his time with the first team, learning valuable lessons along the way that he’s taken into stride while he’s been with WFC2.
“It’s good to be with the first team because you get a sense of how the actions are and the steps they take in preparation for games and when you go to the second team, you always want to bring that down to the other players. It’s good to get a sense of both," explained Campagna.
"When you’re with the second team, you want to be fighting for your place in the first team and when you’re with the first team, you need to show that you always want to be there and stick with the team and help the team win, that goes for both teams so when you’re in the different environments, there’s always certain things you have to do to keep yourself going.”
Having been around the first team setup for a long time, Campagna has taken the chance to bring that same positive outlook when he's with the second team.
“When I go down, I obviously want to be positive with the guys and help the guys win. I fight for the team, too, it’s not like I’m going down there and saying ‘oh, I’m just here to be here’, I want these guys to win, we’re all a club.”
Campagna was named to the first team bench four times during the regular season, getting the chance to experience the feel of a first team match and support his teammates through the whole process.
He also lived the feeling of being a champion for the first time, recalling the ‘Caps Canadian Championship win over Toronto FC at BC Place as one of his favourite moments of the year.
"It's a different feeling, like you're so overwhelmed and excited, you just can't really explain it," said Campagna.
"Going into the locker room after, celebrating with all the guys, it's just surreal."
Through it all, Campagna embraced the challenge and kept supporting his teammates week-in, week-out in order to help the club achieve it's goals.
"For me, it was difficult cause I wasn't playing but I was always there to support them, in training, you want these guys to win, you want your team to win, you want your club to win, you've just got to be there for them and keep supporting and keeping the right mentality and you'll help the team."
When asked what 'Caps fans can expect from his playing style, Campagna sees himself as a ball-playing centre back who can find his teammates in tight spaces, while also using his physical attributes to excel in defending.
Having creative players on the team has given Campagna an example to follow when playing line-breaking passes.
"It came through a lot of my youth coaches and some of my coaches here at Whitecaps, working on a lot of disguised passes, it just kind of comes when you see different players doing them, like Florian Jungwirth who was here and Ryan Gauld, you see them do it and you kind of just adapt to it."
As seen below, Campagna showed his passing capabilities in WFC2's away match against Colorado Rapids on July 24, playing a part in the build-up for Easton Ongaro's second goal.
Overall, Campagna is hoping to build from all the experience he's gained this season and take it into 2023 in the hopes of making the next step in his career.
"[This year] was exciting, I learned a lot of new things. I want to play more minutes with the first team, have a good preseason and make a big impact and definitely win one of the different [competitions] we're in next year, the Canadian Championship I want to be involved in that. I just want to make a name for myself and help the team win," said Campagna.
Catch Campagna and the ‘Caps compete in the Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League Round of 16 against Honduran side Real CD España, with the first leg being played on Wednesday, March 8 at BC Place. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. PT. The Holiday Pack is available now, including the MLS home opener, the CCL match, and the second MLS home match of the season.
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