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Is Ryan Raposo Actually Good Now?

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SOCCER: AUG 13 MLS - Vancouver Whitecaps at San Jose Earthquakes Photo by Bob Kupbens/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Ryan Raposo has the unenviable status of being picked one spot ahead of Daryl Dike in the 2020 MLS Super Draft. In his rookie season he was not very good.

Data Courtesy of American Soccer Analysis and Whoscored

While Dike was scoring goals and drawing interest from clubs in Europe, Raposo did not even attempt a single shot. American Soccer Analysis’ G+ metric pegged him as one of the worst players in the league. This lead to many people, including yours truly, speculating he just wasn’t up to the level in MLS.

But in 2021 things have changed a bit. Raposo, mainly tasked with a substitute role, is actually doing some useful stuff this season. I am still not 100% convinced that this useful stuff adds up to a player that’s “good” per se but at least the useful stuff is happening.

The first and most obvious area of improvement for Raposo is that he is now contributing to shots. Raposo’s expected goals+expected assists per 96 minutes is up 35x from his rookie season (from 0.01 to 0.35). If you factor out penalties then Raposo has more xG+xA per 96 minutes than Whitecaps’ top scorer Cristian Dájome. He is only 0.01 per game behind Deiber Caicedo, and just 0.05 behind club record signing Lucas Cavallini. This is all while mostly coming on as a substitute. 0.35 non penalty xG+xA per 96 ranks in the 47th percentile of MLS wingers with at least 300 minutes. That’s not amazing but it’s certainly not bad for a super sub on one of the league’s worst teams.

Another thing Raposo does well is get the ball into the penalty area. The only Whitecaps who get into the box at a higher rate than him are Theo Bair and Ryan Gauld, both of whom haven’t played enough minutes for their totals to be very meaningful. Of course, leading the Whitecaps in an offensive stat doesn’t always mean that much. So I compared Raposo’s penalty box entries to the top 10 scoring wingers in MLS. Raposo was not quite on the level of Carlos Vela or Nani but he was surprisingly competitive with this group of elite MLS players.

Penalty Box Entries Per 90 Minutes

Player Carries Passes Crosses Total
Player Carries Passes Crosses Total
Raposo 0.91 1.52 0.61 3.04
Vela 1.44 3.01 0.27 4.72
Van Der Water 0.65 3.26 0.65 4.56
Lod 1.44 1.07 0.21 2.72
Salloi 1.14 1.08 0.34 2.56
Russell 1.28 1.79 0.3 3.37
Arriola 1.31 2.35 0.92 4.58
Nani 1.17 2.06 0.7 3.93
Tajouri-Shradi 1.8 2.22 0.35 4.37
Pasher 1.68 1.22 0.3 3.2

Raposo is generally pretty good defensively as well. This was even true in his terrible rookie season. Here is how Raposo compares to MLS wingers over the past 365 days.

Raposo’s defensive stats compared to MLS wingers over the past 365 days via fbref

So in Raposo the Whitecaps currently have a player who gets the ball into the penalty area, creates shots, and puts in good defensive work. Those are three very useful things. It’s a good thing Raposo does them because there are also lots of elements of his game that are hot garbage.

Raposo, on average, completes only 38% of his dribbles. This is truly awful; It makes Lass Bangoura look like Messi. Although he does have some playmaking chops his overall passing stats are mostly ugly. The G+ model also still hates him, suggesting a general inefficiency in his game.

Does this all add up to a good player? I’m not really sure. But I am confident in saying that Raposo now does stuff. As you can see from the chart at the top of this article, that didn’t used to be the case. That’s an encouraging development.

I think two things will be clarifying over the next month or so. Firstly, for Raposo to get more minutes. Once he hits 450 minutes he will get an FBref scouting report for the 2021 season and that should give us a better idea of where he stands today. At the moment his scouting report doesn’t really tell us anything because his numbers are still being dragged down by his rookie season. Raposo getting more minutes should also test if he can maintain his impressive rate of shot contributions over a greater time span.

The other thing that may be clarifying is if Raposo gets more time to play with Ryan Gauld. They may be an unlikely pairing but I think their abilities could be complimentary. Raposo’s skills are all about getting the ball in dangerous scoring areas so maybe he can be the Jonathan Cheechoo to Gauld’s Joe Thornton.