Ryan Raposo had this date encircled in his calendar.
It was a youth club match with Vaughan SC in Ontario, but he was thinking big picture.
The night before, he got an email he had been waiting for months.
Ryan, we’re looking forward to seeing you tomorrow. Don’t be nervous.
Ian McIntyre had finally replied to his overtures, and the Syracuse head coach would be in the stands to scout him.
It’s December of 2016, his senior year in high school, and he already mapped out how it was supposed to go.
Impress McIntyre, get a scholarship offer, visit the university just three hours east of his hometown, then commit to play college soccer in the ACC, the toughest conference in the nation.
It made perfect sense, and everything was going as planned.
Until it did not.
In the final minute of the match versus Sigma FC, a crunching collision left Raposo sprawled on the pitch, and right then and there, he already knew.
Se Deus quiser.
Little Ryan would spend days with his grandparents while his parents worked long hours – his dad Rui in their family-ran cleaning business, his mom Lori as a cardiac nurse.
Hours were spent watching soccer, and Raposo would look up to his Vavu, Portuguese for grandfather, and tell him about his dreams of one day becoming a soccer player.
“Se Deus quiser,” his Vavu would say in his native tongue. By God’s will.
And so it was these three words that Ryan would take to heart as he attacked rehab for his fractured right fibula with the same ferocity he played with.
It would not be his own plan, rather a divine one, he surmised, but he would move heaven and earth to put himself in the position to be a pro, if that would ever be in the cards for him.
“My physiotherapist always told me I was his most dedicated client who came to see him. I was always doing more than what the doctors asked of me which escalated my recovery time,” said Raposo. “It’s a road block, not the end-all be-all, you don’t stop. I just wanted to get back on the field to prove people wrong.”
Youngest of three brothers, Raposo drew inspiration from his whole family. Especially from his late Vavu who came to Canada “with legit just the clothes on his back,” and both of his parents who would bring their sons to soccer even after tiring shifts at work.
“My mom used to work long nights at the hospital, come home at 7 a.m., wake me up, help me get ready and drive me to training 60 kilometres away in Toronto. I would go find her sleeping in the car, I’d wake her up so she can drive me back home,” said Raposo. “My dad would do the same thing, get off work early, pick me up at school, and a five-hour process of driving through Toronto during rush hour to Vaughan for training with Team Ontario and then back home. We did this my entire childhood.”
He grinded it out during rehab, putting in the time, while keeping things in perspective and holding out hope.
“It might have been the best thing that happened to me. Before the injury, I was getting a lot of pressure from a lot of mid-level schools to commit. It’s not really what I wanted. When I broke my leg, I lost all those offers,” said Raposo, looking back. “[Coach McIntyre] said after the injury that he was going to keep their eye on me. When I came back, I came back strong and ultimately got the offer from the Syracuse, the school I always wanted to go to.
"Everything really happens for a reason.”
Se Deus quiser.
Syracuse was a movie.
19 goals and 14 assists in 38 appearances in his two seasons playing for his dream school. A stunner at Chapel Hill, where he led a comeback from being down 3-1 late, pulling out the upset against then-ranked North Carolina with a hat trick.
But still there were some doubts.
“I’ve been told I’m too small, I’m not good enough. I’ve been the underdog for a very long time so it’s nothing new to me,” said Raposo. “I’ve had a chip on my shoulder my whole life.”
But he felt ready. He had been preparing for the next stage since he laced up his first pair of boots.
Following his sophomore year when he was named to the All-ACC First Team, Raposo signed a Generation adidas contract, realizing a goal set out when he decided to attend Syracuse.
It was finally time to make the dream a reality and enter the MLS SuperDraft.
The night before the draft, the buzz he was hearing was Columbus Crew SC was intent in snatching him with the seventh pick. His mind was set that he was moving to the Midwest.
Until the day after, following the first three selections, and Vancouver was on the clock.
“The pick is in, and it's Ryan Raposo from Syracuse University."
Se Deus quiser.
Fast forward to March 6, a day after his 21st birthday, at the Whitecaps FC facility in Vancouver. The team schedule read a training session in the morning, and then a 3 p.m. flight for the players making the trip to LA.
One problem, however. Yordy Reyna, one of the players the staff had planned their attack around all week, did not show at training.
“Yordy got sick. I came to the facility not even prepped to travel. Right after training, I drove back to my apartment, grabbed my suitcase, and I’m off to LA with the team,” said Raposo.
Just over 24 hours later, at raucous Dignity Health Sports Park and in front of rabid LA Galaxy fans in attendance for Chicharito’s home debut, Raposo was getting warmed up with the rest of the ‘Caps bench.
He’s staying ready while remaining realistic even after an impressive preseason where he scored a pair of goals.
“In my head, I’m here because of luck. The only reason I’m here is Yordy got sick,” said Raposo. “66th minute comes in and the coaches are calling for a guy. I kept on with my warmup, thinking nothing of it. The message gets passed along and at that moment, something just clicked in my head and I said, it’s go time.”
Running over to sub in, Raposo had a conversation in his head, telling himself, “It’s here. You have to change the game for the better. Be the hardest-working player on the field. You need to make a difference.”
Moments later, Tosaint Ricketts scores to shock the crowd, and it was Raposo’s presence that turned the game around, and it was his pass from the wing that initiated the game-winner.
Ricketts, the veteran striker with the resume that extends over a decade long, leapt in celebration and was swarmed by his teammates.
Nearby, the rookie showed nary an emotion. Barely raising his fist in triumph, you couldn’t see the three words inked on the inside of his right arm.
Se Deus quiser.