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Raposo scores first MLS goal, Vancouver Whitecaps down Sporting Kansas City 1-0

VANCOUVER — Ryan Raposo isn't exactly sure what happened in the moments after he scored his first Major League Soccer goal.
Vancouver Whitecaps Brian White, back left, and Sporting Kansas City's Nicolas Isimat-Mirin collide during the first half of an MLS soccer game in Vancouver, on Saturday, April 2, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

VANCOUVER — Ryan Raposo isn't exactly sure what happened in the moments after he scored his first Major League Soccer goal. 

The Canadian wingback put away the lone strike Saturday as the Vancouver Whitecaps downed Sporting Kansas City 1-0, but for Raposo, the moments after the ball went into the net are missing.

“It just bounced in front of me and I kind of just poked it in. And from there I kind of blacked out," he said. "I don’t even know what happened until I sat down, seriously.”

Raposo knows, though, that somewhere in the stands, his mom was "going crazy." 

Lori Raposo flew out to Vancouver from Hamilton, Ont., early Friday. The cardiac nurse was working a night shift when her son texted saying he would be making his first-ever start at B.C. Place and she booked the first flight she could find. 

Having her in the stands made the game — and the goal — extra special, Ryan Raposo said. 

“It’s a moment I’ve seen and kind of manifested over and over in my head," he said. "So the fact that it was kind of happening in real life, it meant a lot to me.”

The goal lifted the 'Caps (1-3-1) to their first win of the season. 

It was a revenge victory for Vancouver, which was eliminated by Kansas City in the first round of the playoffs last season.

The result snapped a dismal four-game winless streak for the home side, who lost 3-1 to Los Angeles FC in their last outing on March 26.

"This family has gone through a rocky start to the season," said Whitecaps captain Russell Teibert. "We played games away from home, tough teams away from home and we’ve had people count us out already. People counted us out last year as well and we turned that around and we saw how special that was.” 

Sporting pushed hard in the final minutes to find an equalizer but some solid stops from Thomas Hasal preserved Vancouver's lead. 

The Canadian 'keeper made four saves across the match and collected his second clean sheet of the season. 

One of his best of the night came in injury time when Hasal dropped and smothered a header from Roger Espinoza.

Locking down late in the game took the entire team, Teibert said. 

“It took a group of warriors," he said. "It took a team that put the team first before the individual. And you saw a real team performance from the first minute to the 90-some-odd.”

Goalkeeper Tim Melia stopped two on-target shots for Sporting (2-4-0). 

Raposo broke the goalless deadlock in the 73rd minute, putting a right-footed shot just out of Melia's reach from the left side of the six-yard box. 

He sprinted to the corner flag where Raposo fell to his knees on the turf. His teammates mobbed him, clapping him on the back, while Teibert took a photographer's camera and mimed snapping a photo of the moment. 

Head coach Vanni Sartini was considering taking the 23-year-old Canadian off just minutes before the goal because Raposo was starting to look tired. 

After subbing him for Marcus Godinho in the 79th minute, Sartini gave the young player some brief words of congratulations.

“I told him ‘Bravo, Pollo.’ Because that’s his nickname because he likes to eat chicken a lot. So we call him Pollo," the coach said with a smile. "He was destroyed but he was so happy, so beautiful.”

SKC nearly got on the scoreboard after slipping through the Vancouver defence early in the second half. 

Johnny Russell sent a crisp pass to Daniel Salloi, who waltzed through a pair of 'Caps defenders and unleashed a blast from the top of the box at the 52nd-minute mark. Hasal kept the score knotted at 0-0 with a diving save. 

"The only thing that was lacking was goals," Kansas City head coach Peter Vermes said of his side. 

"Our game plan was good. We took advantage of the things that we talked about. We actually did. We just need to score the chances that we had."

It was the Whitecaps who recorded the first shot on goal earlier in the half when Melia had to drop to the turf to stop a header from Ryan Gauld in the 47th minute.

Kansas City outshot Vancouver 4-2 across the first but neither side registered a shot on target. The two sides were nearly even in possession across the opening 45 minutes, with the 'Caps holding a 50.6 per cent edge. 

Vancouver's best chance of the half came in the 32nd minute when Deiber Caicedo sent a ball into Brian White deep in the penalty area. The American striker went in for a sliding shot at the top of the six-yard box but Melia got to the ball a split second before he could put it in the back of the net. 

White was making his first start of the season after suffering a foot contusion in training camp, then dealing with calf tightness.

He played 58 minutes Saturday before being replaced by Canadian striker Lucas Cavallini.

Sporting got a prime opportunity to open the scoring in the 14th minute when Khiry Shelton sent a right-footed shot skimming past the Vancouver post from outside the box. 

The Whitecaps continue their homestand next Saturday, hosting their Cascadia rivals, the Portland Timbers. 

NOTES: Vancouver defender Tristan Blackmon left the field with a bandage around his head in injury time after a hard collision in the air. … The first corner kick came in the 61st minute. Kansas City had three corners across the match and Vancouver had one. … A crowd of 16,772 took in the game, including a shirtless pitch invader who briefly interrupted injury time. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 2, 2022.

Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press