On Thursday morning, The Vancouver Whitecaps selected Ryan Raposo with the 4th overall selection in the 2020 MLS Superdraft.
Rapso joins the Whitecaps hailing from Hamilton ON, and having put up an impressive 15 goals as a sophomore at Syracuse University before preparing for his transition to the pro ranks. At the National Team level, Raposo is also a veteran of four Canadian youth camps, having captained Ontario to gold at the 2017 Canada Games where he was named tournament MVP.
For the Whitecaps, the ability to select a quality Canadian player in the draft was a no brainer. Additionally, the fact that Raposo is on a Generation Adidas contract (which won’t count against the Whitecaps’ salary cap) comes as an added bonus. Furthermore, for a team that desperately lacks squad depth at the moment, addressing a position of need high in the draft seemed like a top priority, and it’s fortunate for the Club that things fell into place the way they were hoping.
Later on Thursday morning, we got the chance to speak with Ryan Raposo via conference call, and he shared his excitement for the opportunity to join a Canadian MLS Club:
“I’m really excited. Vancouver is the place I wanted to end up, so I got my wish, I’m very happy that I get to stay here in Canada, and help grow the game here.”
For Raposo, the importance of growing and representing soccer in Canada seems to be very much at the forefront of his mind, and this should align well with the Whitecaps, even if he is placed amongst the development squad ranks at the beginning of his pro career.
Marc Dos Santos often speaks a lot about the “profile” of player that he is looking for through his recruitment process, and Raposo shared with us how he would describe himself as a player, and what he expects to bring to the pitch this season:
“I like to get on the ball and I like to run at defenders...I like to keep possession of the ball and connect with my teammates as well. I also think that defensively I have a high work rate. I love to get stuck into challenges and I would definitely say that I’m a two-way player. I’m the most competitive person I’ve ever met.”
Raposo also reflected on the state of the Club he is joining, and why he feels like he’s a perfect match for the Whitecaps organization:
“I know that the Club is going through some changes, but Vancouver definitely has the potential to be a world class club - not only in MLS but also internationally, and I’m excited to be a part of that. I think that I’m a very versatile player, and I think that’s one of the reasons why the Whitecaps selected me.”
As much as it was evident throughout the interview that Raposo is supremely confident is his own abilities, he also understands that the transition to the pro game will be a learning process, and that a high draft pick doesn’t necessarily guarantee minutes right off the bat:
“I’m keeping my goals realistic. I’m just going to come in and keep my head down. I’m not going to come in expecting to play a certain amount of minutes or anything like that - that’s for the coaching staff to decide.”
When asked specifically about how he feels he will adapt to the pro game and what aspects will be most important, Raposo was optimistic about the way in which his attributes and mentality would help guide him through the process:
“I believe I’m very tactically sound. I’m a student of the game. If I’m not playing, I’m watching soccer, and I’m willing to learn. I believe that I’m very coachable. Obviously, there are some great players on Vancouver that I’ll be able to study...One of the biggest differences will be the level of experience. It’s going to be different playing against 10-year veterans of the league, that’s obviously not something we get at the college level. I understand that it’s going to be tough physically and a much faster level of play. I expect pre-season to be very tough and I’m going to do my best to keep in mind that it’s a learning process and that everyone takes time to adapt to the pro level - but obviously I hope to adapt quickly. ”
Prior to his university career, at 15, Raposo spent time on a training tour in Germany with Hoffenheim, Mainz and Sandhausen. While his stint which each of these clubs was short, Raposo confessed over the phone that his time in Germany left a lasting impression:
“I learned that you have to fight for what you want. It was definitely the biggest learning curve of my life. What I learned is that if you want to go there and sign a contract, you’re taking food off someone else’s plate, and that means that people aren't always going to be friendly. That was different than Canada. You just have to prove yourself - get stuck in defensively, win the ball back, do those sorts of things, and eventually they’ll start respecting you and trusting you.”
As a final comment, the young Canadian reflected on what it meant to hear his name called, and how special it was to be surrounded by friends and family for the achievement of a lifelong dream:
“It was a surreal feeling to hear your name called. This is something I’ve been wanting for myself for years now...I’ve always wanted to be a professional soccer player, so to finally check that off the list is a massive accomplishment for both me and my family.”
On Day 1 of the Superdraft (at 32nd overall), the Vancouver Whitecaps also selected Daniel Gagliardi, a 6’3” goalkeeper from Florida International University, who Marc Dos Santos says will get “every opportunity” to compete for the No.2 job this season following the departure of both Sean Melvin and Zac MacMath.
What are your thoughts on the pick? Are you going to pay attention to day 2 of the draft?
Stay tuned for more Whitecaps news as the pre-season rapidly approaches!