Rivas' dynamite debut lifts Impact's defensive potential

Aurelien Collin and Nelson Rivas battle for the ball

Photo Credit: 
Courtesy of Sporting Kansas City

MONTREAL — Montreal Impact fans had longed to watch him play, and the wait was undeniably worth it.

Colombian defender Nelson Rivas made a sensational debut to his MLS career on Saturday night in the Impact’s 2-0 upset of Sporting Kansas City.

Despite not having taken part in a competitive game since March 2011, the former Inter Milan center back turned in a Man of the Match-worthy 60 minutes and displayed his vast array of defensive skills, as evidenced by the five interceptions, six clearances and three recoveries he made, as well as the four tackles he won.

HIGHLIGHTS: Sporting KC 0, Montreal 2

Rivas knew beforehand that he would play a limited number of minutes against Kansas City, and says he's confidently building his match fitness up.

“It was a tough game for me, having been out injured for three months,” Rivas told MLSsoccer.com by phone after the game. “Winning at a ground where it’s very difficult to do so gives a lot of confidence. I’m happy with the excellent game we played. … We were confident even before the game, and what’s important is that we’ve got an excellent group who trust one another.”

Jesse Marsch is more than pleased to be able to count on Rivas at last. But it goes far beyond the Colombian's contributions on the field.

“I’m very happy for him, because he wants to get himself going so bad,” Marsch told reporters on Monday. “You could see that he was enjoying himself, that he has confidence in who he is. I think he is only going to get better.”

As has been the case since Rivas fell to a hamstring injury during preseason, physical preparation will remain a crucial part of the center back’s training regimen. The Impact staff will keep proceeding cautiously despite the good signs Rivas showed at Livestrong Sporting Park.

“The important part is now to manage it physically so that we give him the best opportunity to have a good, long season where he’s healthy and ready to go for 90 minutes in a lot of matches,” said Marsch.