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Vancouver Whitecaps battle to 1-1 draw in MLS home opener

Vancouver Whitecaps' Ali Ahmed (22) and Charlotte FC's Iuri Tavares (38) vie for the ball during the second half of an MLS soccer match in Vancouver, on Saturday, Mar. 2, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ethan Cairns Vancouver Whitecaps' Ali Ahmed (22) and Charlotte FC's Iuri Tavares (38) vie for the ball during the second half of an MLS soccer match in Vancouver, on Saturday, Mar. 2, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ethan Cairns

Ryan Raposo admits he would have been emotionally lost a few years ago if he made the same mistake that led to the first Charlotte goal of Saturday's home opener for the Vancouver Whitecaps.

But now, the defender channelled that frustration into more productive methods: mainly by scoring the tying goal for the Whitecaps in their 1-1 Major League Soccer draw with Charlotte FC at B.C. Place.

“I think the elephant in the room, maybe people don't want to ask me about, is their first goal and obviously me giving away the ball,” Raposo said after the match.

“I mean, I'm seeing it all over Twitter. Everyone's tweeting at me. It's football, people make mistakes. But yeah, it's something that we've trained 1,000 times over and as soon as the ball went in the first thought was 'I'm gonna see this tomorrow morning on the film or two days on the film.'

Raposo went to backheel the ball away, only for Brecht Dejaegere to seize the ball and fire in a cross, with Enzo Copetti dummying the pass to allow Iuri Tavares to score the opener in the 31st minute for Charlotte.

“I think maybe a couple of years ago, I think I would have lost my head after that. Like put my head down and … maybe had a rough rest of the game,” Raposo said.

“But honestly the ball went in and my mindset was like 'It happens. I'm going to continue to dribble at guys, I'm gonna continue to be active in the final third I'm gonna continue to play my game' and yeah, I'm happy. I'm happy with my performance because I did exactly that.”

The Whitecaps equalized five minutes into first-half stoppage time after a deep cross from Pedro Vite found a wide open Raposo who calmly tucked the ball past a sprawling Kristijan Kahlina.

“I mean, I think a goal's a goal,” Raposo said when asked about the goal and how it was bundled into the back of the net after Kahlina appeared to over dive on the attempted save.

“It doesn't matter how it goes in, it matters that it does go in. I clearly meant to put it back across the goal and it trickled in.

Vancouver's best chances of the second half came within minutes of each other, with Kahlina denying Javain Brown along the line before following it up with a save against substitute attacker Fafa Picault.

Picault's chance came after Charlotte's Nathan Byrne attempted to clear the ball, only to hit it straight at the U.S. winger allowing him a one-on-one chance that Kahlina pushed away.

Vancouver's in-game management was handled by assistant coach Michael D'Agostino, who was serving as the team's head coach in the absence of Vanni Sartini who started the first of his six-game match suspension.

“Overall we did start a little bit sleepy. A lot of the things that we did plan on doing, we just didn't execute. Whether it was for a lack of understanding, I'm not sure,” said D'Agostino after the match.

Sartini is allowed to be in the Whitecaps' locker room up to 90 minutes before the match and then isn't allowed to communicate with the team until after the match.

D'Agostino praised Raposo's performance and willingness to play a number of positions to help his team.

“I thought he did well. I thought he was able to get more into the game when we were able to get more pressure on the ball. I think that's when it all started for us,” the coach said.

Charlotte thought it had a chance to open the scoring in the 22nd minute when referee Scott Bowman awarded a penalty to Copetti after an alleged foul by defender Ranko Veselinovic.

But the call was overturned by video review to cheers from the hometown crowd of 29,624.

The game was refereed by Scott Bowman, a Canadian Premier League referee, due to the contract disagreements between Major League Soccer and its referees union.

The duo of Brian White and Ryan Gauld, who combined for nearly half of the team's 55 goals in 2023, struggled to find a rhythm in the game, with missed passes and mistimed runs off the ball.

“I think it was more just the fact that we struggled to win the ball up in higher positions and we were always kind of playing on the back foot a little bit,” said D'Agostino.

Vancouver last won the first game of its season in 2021, a 1-0 win over Portland Timbers FC.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2024. Top Stories

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