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Hamilton’s Ryan Raposo ready to take next step of soccer dream with Whitecaps

Hamilton's Ryan Raposo is shown playing with Syracuse against Rhode Island in a Nov.21, 2019 handout photo.
Hamilton's Ryan Raposo is shown playing with Syracuse against Rhode Island in a Nov.21, 2019 handout photo. Michael J. Okoniewski / Canadian Press

Ryan Raposo has always had his eye set on pro soccer.

On Thursday the Vancouver Whitecaps opened the door to his dream, taking the Syracuse attacking midfielder fourth overall in the MLS SuperDraft.

“It was signing a pro contract or nothing,” said the 20-year-old from Hamilton. “At a young age, a lot of other kids I saw – some had that passion but not as much as me. I’ve always been the most competitive person. So whether it’s playing cards or soccer or anything, I’ll try and beat you at that.

“And as you get older – 16, 17 – even the better players, they have other priorities they start getting a girlfriend, you get your (driving) licence, this-that. You start going out. And with me, my priorities have stayed the same ever since I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be a pro footballer. That’s never once changed for me.”

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Raposo made his mark in two seasons at Syracuse. In 2019 he set a school record for a sophomore for most goals (15) and points (37) while earning All-ACC honours.

The only Syracuse player taken higher in the draft was Miles Robinson (second overall by Atlanta, 2017).

Raposo switched to a No. 10 role last season from the wing. Syracuse coach Ian McIntyre calls him a dynamic, exciting attacker who can torment defenders.

“He was terrific for us in both years, scored some big goals in big games for us,” said McIntyre.

“What I love about him is his mentality. He’s a winner. He’s always looking to make something happen and he has that kind of drive and aggression that will translate well to the professional level as well,” he added.

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Raposo says while his favourite position is out wide, he’s willing to do what’s needed.

“Ryan is a crafty player,” said Vancouver coach Marc Dos Santos. “An attacking player who can play behind the forward, on the right or the left, good in one-vs-one situations.”

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“The tools he has offensively and what he can bring in the last third (of the field) are very interesting,” he added.

Growing up, Raposo says he was dismissed as “too small, too skinny and couldn’t get around the field fast enough for some coaches’ liking.” He joined the Toronto FC Academy at 11, only to be released less than two years later – which only increased his desire to prove doubters wrong.

The Whitecaps took Florida International goalkeeper Daniel Gagliardi in the second round (32nd overall). The six-foot-three 195-pounder went 10-3-4 in 2019 with an 0.93 goals-against average and five shutouts.

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The 22-year-old has also played in USL League Two with IMG Academy, Montverde Academy and Des Moines Menace, as well as Storm FC in NPSL.

Dos Santos says Gagliardi will be given a chance to become Maxime Crepeau’s backup.

Vancouver also has a pick in the third round (55th overall), slated for Monday.