Positive diagnosis: Rapids expect injured Rivero back early

When X-rays revealed on Tuesday that star midfielder Martín Rivero would miss significant playing time with a broken foot, the Colorado Rapids initially feared that the Argentine playmaker would be out between two and three months.

But four days later, Rapids head coach Oscar Pareja is optimistic that Rivero could return sooner than that initial assessment.

“The doctor thinks he can recover quicker than anticipated,” Pareja told MLSsoccer.com by phone from Arizona. “It might be less than two months.”

Rivero suffered the injury in the first half of Tuesday’s preseason opener against Portland, awkwardly falling to the ground while completing a pass. But after undergoing successful foot surgery on Thursday afternoon in Denver, Rivero may be back as soon as late March or early April. While Pareja declined to target a specific return date, one possibility could be the Rapids’ April 6 game against Rocky Mountain rivals Real Salt Lake at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.

READ: Rapids' Rivero suffers broken foot, will miss 2-3 months

In the meantime, Colorado will have to find a replacement for the creative midfielder, who led the team with eight assists in 2012. One option is new signing Kevin Harbottle, who is still in his native Chile awaiting his visa paperwork.

“It will be important for him to adjust to the group,” Pareja said of the 22-year-old, who was signed from Chilean side Catolica in January. “He’s a guy who can go hand-in-hand into that position or on the outside as a winger.”

Pareja also listed Kamani Hill, recent acquisition Nick LaBrocca and Homegrown player Dillon Serna as other possible alternatives to fill Rivero’s spot in the lineup. But in the meantime, Pareja and the Rapids remain optimistic that Rivero could be back sooner rather than later, and the second-year head coach is confident that he has the players he needs to get through the Argentine playmaker’s injury.

“The only thing that matters to us right now is that Martín recuperates,” Pareja said. “What we’re going to do is to plan with the players that we have available right now and hopefully he’ll have a quick recovery.”

Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.