The Vancouver Whitecaps managed to break their home opener losing streak, but only came away with a point in a 1-1 draw against Charlotte FC.

In front of a home opener attendance record of 29,624, it was a goal from Ryan Raposo that sealed the point.

Without Sam Adekugbe (out with injury) and Ali Ahmed only available from the bench, head coach Vanni Sartini was forced to adapt his chosen 3-4-3 lineup. Alessandro Schöpf slotted into the right wingback position, a spot he has played before, but not as a Whitecap player.

Javain Brown took the right centre-back spot as Mathías Laborda was serving a suspension.

Damir Kreilach joined Brian White and Ryan Gauld up top in what has come to be expected after the three started for both matches against Tigres UNAL in the CONCACAF Champions Cup.

The Whitecaps started slow, relinquishing the majority of possession to Charlotte in the beginning minutes of the match. But for the visitors’ efforts, they were not able to break down the strong defensive space of Vancouver.

Assistant coach Michael D’Agostino, who took the Whitecaps’ helm with Sartini serving a suspension for a red card in the playoffs from last season, said his team “started a little bit sleepy.”

“A lot of the things we planned on doing, we just didn’t execute. Whether it was for lack of understanding or probably more likely just a lack of willingness, I’m not sure,” he said.

Vancouver did work themselves into the match, but it was a difficult affair for both sides, neither creating much by the way of clear chances. Charlotte has one effort off a corner, while Vancouver hit one from a throw-in.

Charlotte thought they had a breakthrough in the 23rd minute as referee Scott Bowman awarded a penalty. Ranko Veselinović was judged to have brought down Enzo Copetti, and the call was quickly made.

However, VAR called Bowman over to the pitch-side monitor to review the call. The review showed Capetti tripping over his own feet, and the penalty was rescinded.

Veselinović almost nabbed a goal of his own minutes later. But his header off a free kick sailed wide of the mark.

It was Charlotte who hit first. The Whitecaps gave up possession too easily in their own end, and the ball was quickly played by Brecht Dejaegere into the 18-yard box. Iuri Tavares received it unmarked and hit it hard and cleanly past Takaoka to put the visitors up by one in the 31st minute.

Charlotte could have added another in the 41st minute. Copetti stole the ball from Veselinović way too easily, leaving the no. 9 unimpeded toward the goal. But Takaoka stood tall to deny the added marker.

But the half was not done. A corner deep into stoppage time got played out to Pedro Vite at the far corner of the 18–yard box. His cross found Raposo alone, and the wingback converted the easy goal to tie the match just before the half.

“I thought he [Raposo] did really well today,” D’Agostino said. “He’s asked to play two different positions basically, as you know. The tactical identity, he’s playing as a fullback and as a wingback, and I thought he did well.”

It may have been undeserved based on the quality of play in the first half, but the Whitecaps were not likely to complain.

The Whitecaps started stronger in the second half. They were not as hemmed into their half as in the early part of the game.

“The guys did really, really well as we gave them some tactical adjustments,” D’Agostino said.

However, both clubs did not offer much in terms of goal chances.

Vancouver brought on Fafà Picault for his Whitecaps’ MLS debut, and he was quick to try and change the game.

He had a golden opportunity in the 74th minute, grabbing the ball in the 18-yard box off a Charlotte defensive error. However, Kahlina was quick to close him down and restrict the effort.

Despite pushing until the end, Charlotte held on for the draw, leaving both clubs to take a point.

D’Agostino said that Charlotte having played competitively last year while the Whitecaps did not, helped the visitors.

“This is the first time we’ve played a game with this type of intensity since Tigres,” he said. “And you can try to replicate that as much as you want, but preseason friendlies are never quite the same.”

Raposo’s helper gives Whitecaps breathing room

Raposo’s lone goal for the Whitecaps came off a beautiful cross from Vite. However, the wingback’s effort may have been fortuitous.

In speaking about his goal, Raposo said “a goal’s a goal.”

While the ball did cross the line, it sent Charlotte goalkeeper Kristijan Kahlina the wrong way because it looked as though Raposo meant to send the ball back across the face of the goal instead of shooting.

“I clearly meant to put it back across the goal and it trickled in,” Raposo said. “I think he [Kahlina] was cheating. He saw two guys open in the middle, and he guessed. He already started going to the middle. And I don’t really care how; it went in.”

The wingback mentioned the quality of Vite’s crosses and said he knew the midfielder would find him if he kept making runs in behind the play.

Raposo was also quick to discuss his role in the goal that occurred against his team.

“I think the elephant in the room, maybe, is people don’t want to ask me is their [Charlotte’s] first goal and me giving away the ball,” he said. “I’m seeing it all over Twitter [now X]. People are tweeting at me. Man, it’s football. People make mistakes.”

Joking aside, Raposo said he knew what the error was and that it lay with him.

“That’s not what you want from the wingback down the line. I played it. It was a bad ball. And the way we build out, we’re vulnerable to those types of situations. So, us fullbacks, wingbacks, have to possess the ball and not give it away cheaply like that because if we do, we’re very expanded, and you see. They won the ball and a couple of passes, it’s in the back of the net.”

Raposo said a couple of years ago, a mistake like that would have gotten him down, and he would not have responded in the way he did. In this match, he was able to get his head down, recover and get his goal.

Next up

The Whitecaps head out on the road for the next two matches. First up, a trip to Western Conference hopefuls San Jose Earthquakes.

The game is on Saturday, March 9. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m.