Ryan Raposo - in game, looking left

Rookie recap: Raposo looks back on navigating 2020, sets his sights on competition next season

In a season that was hard to predict, Whitecaps FC midfielder Ryan Raposo navigated it all.

From spending weeks in a hotel in Vancouver to living on the road for months at a time, Raposo did what he could to make the most of his rookie season with the ‘Caps.

After being drafted fourth overall by Vancouver in the 2020 MLS SuperDraft, the former Syracuse University star saw action in 15 games throughout the 2020 campaign, overcoming an injury in preseason that would resurface later during the year.

“At the beginning, I felt really good with everything that was happening. Then after COVID and having to quarantine, I felt that the injury didn’t help and it set me back,” Raposo admitted.

Raposo’s injury, coupled with the unusual circumstances of the season, didn’t stop him from contributing – assisting on the game-winning goal in his MLS debut at LA Galaxy in Week 2.

While adjusting his game to the professional level, Raposo had become a valuable spark off the bench for Marc Dos Santos by the end of the season, finishing with 13 substitute appearances, tied for sixth across MLS, and highest among rookies.

Over the course of his rookie season, Raposo was able to bond with his new teammates and learn from some of the veterans. Leaning on younger players and learning from older players aided Raposo in adjusting to life in the pros.

“Theo [Bair], Patrick [Metcalfe], Thomas [Hasal], Michael [Baldisimo], Georges [Mukumbilwa], all of the young guys I’m super close with and talk to on a daily basis,” Raposo said. “There’s also been a lot of older guys that have taken me under their wing like Andy Rose and Tosaint Ricketts, both great guys, both great leaders, and it really helped the transition.”

With 14 of the returning players next year under the age of 23, Raposo understands that he is among a number of young prospects that will be battling for minutes with the squad. While serving as a deterrent for some, competition is Raposo’s fuel.

“It’s exciting,” Raposo said of his role within the young team. “It’s what I live for, competition. Next season, I believe that we will be a much better, stronger team so we’ve set a good foundation to work off of. With some additions that I’m sure the club’s going to make in the offseason, it’s just going to add on to the progress. I’m excited, I’m confident.”

While work does come before play, Raposo is looking forward to his holiday season off the pitch and back home as well.

“It’s amazing,” Raposo said of being back in Canada. “My girlfriend came after we returned from Portland and then she went back to Toronto. A couple friends from back home came and visited me. I’m excited to get home and see my family. I’m super excited to see them and have some home cooking.”

After the festivities of the holiday season, Raposo is looking forward to getting back on the pitch and making a difference for his team. That difference can come in many different forms but for the midfielder, his aspiration is simple: do anything it takes to help the team.

“A team goal is definitely to make the playoffs,” Raposo said. “It’s very much attainable. Obviously, this year, with everything happening, we were still very close. I truly believe next year we’ll get a playoff spot as a team.”

“Individually,” Raposo added, “I’ve set a lot of personal goals for myself and one of them is just to be a consistent starter and be someone who can contribute on both sides of the ball whether that’s getting goals and assists or defending hard and playing within our philosophy.”

Eager to get his body right, the Hamilton, Ontario native is looking ahead to contributing for Vancouver in the coming months. Raposo also praised the Vancouver supporters for adding a bit of normalcy to these difficult times.

“We notice the fan support,” Raposo said. “Obviously, they weren’t allowed at the stadium, but we received the messages, we see everything on social media and the message is always relayed somehow. We really appreciate the support by the fans. They helped us get through some really hard times.”

As a true team player, Raposo knows that to achieve individual goals, team goals must be met first. As he heads into the 2021 season, he understands that above all else, the team is the priority.

“The team goals are the most important,” Raposo said. “I’m just a piece of the puzzle to help make that come true.”