Ryan Raposo is weird (as a player I mean, I’ve never met him). If you just look at his fbref page then you would come away with the impression that he is an extremely effective attacking fullback. But if my Twitter timeline is any indication, most people do not come away with that impression of him. So, what I want to do here, is investigate why that dissonance exists.
I want to start by saying, i’m very sympathetic to where Raposo’s detractors are coming from. Aesthetically, he can be hard to watch. Bad touches, poor decisions, crosses that ballooned over everyone, these are all things we see from him all the time. But, again, if we look at the stats we see he is in the 89th percentile for xG+xA and the 67th percentile for shot-creating actions. How can that be?
Well, this will probably clock in as one of my shorter articles because the answer, I think, is pretty simple. Consider this compilation of shot assists from Raposo this season:
What you’ll notice (or at least I hope you’ll notice) is that he is always wide open in the final 3rd. I mean, just look at some of these stills.
If we go back to the data we can see that he’s in the 91st percentile for progressive passes received and touches in the attacking 3rd. Once you understand this, the rest of the picture becomes clear. Raposo creates so many high-danger scoring chances, despite some readily apparent deficiencies, because he gets himself more opportunities to create those chances than the vast majority of MLS fullbacks. I think this is a combination of intelligent off-the-ball movement by Raposo and Vancouver’s narrow formation that naturally sucks opponents into the middle of the field. Now, is he efficient with all of these opportunities he creates for himself? Obviously not. If he were efficient then he probably wouldn’t be a Whitecaps player anymore.
I think there are a few other factors that play into Raposo’s effectiveness. He does have a good right foot and can hit the ball with a lot of power and swerve, albeit not always with accuracy or consistency. He’s also a better dribbler than he is usually given credit for. We also can’t ignore the fact that he occasionally takes set pieces, which gives him a little stats boost. But I think this is a relatively minor factor as he shares these duties with a number of other players. All together, he’s the sort of guy who will eventually do some damage, even if he is a bit frustrating.
This is, perhaps not the most satisfying conclusion but I think it’s the truth. Raposo is a player who is talented enough to have a lengthy career as a useful MLS player but has serious flaws that will probably prevent him from rising above that level. He’ll never play for Bayern Munich but the Whitecaps should probably renew his contract whenever it’s up.