Colorado Rapids' Martin Rivero set for slight role change as return from foot injury nears

Martin Rivero

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COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – Rapids midfielder Martín Rivero is just about ready to return from a foot injury that he suffered late last month. But when he does return, he’ll be asked to play in a slightly different role.

Rivero is close to returning from an unspecified right foot injury that he suffered in a 2-0 win over Chivas USA on May 25. After missing a 2-2 draw against FC Dallas on June 1, the 23-year-old Argentine fully practiced on Wednesday and said he’s ready to play in Saturday’s match against San Jose at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park (9 pm ET, watch on MLS Live).

“I’m training normally and it’s not hurting, but I’m being very cautious because I don’t want that to happen again,” Rivero said of the injury, which occurred on the same foot that he broke during preseason in January. “Unfortunately, I lost work and a game, but the idea is to return on Saturday.”

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Now that Rivero is ready to return to the field, head coach Oscar Pareja has something a little different in mind for the second-year MLS player. After leading the Rapids with eight assists but only finding the back of the net twice in 30 MLS starts in 2012, Pareja wants his No. 10 to push further forward with the hope of creating more assists and, in particular, more goals.

“Martin came and dropped 10 or 15 yards more than usual [in 2012],” Pareja said on Wednesday. “We wanted him to build from the back, which was fine. We didn’t have the players that we wanted at that moment. Now, I think we have the solidness in the middle, and I think we can afford to have Martin a bit higher and produce more, create more assists, score. That’s the responsibility for the playmaker.”

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Rivero has acted as the engine of the Rapids’ midfield, distributing the ball and creating opportunities in 2012 and for part of 2013, typically playing underneath the center striker in a 4-3-3. He was effective, leading the team in assists. But Pareja believes Rivero can contribute more, particularly on the offensive end, leading to the attack-minded switch.

So how exactly would one describe Rivero’s new role? Pareja tried to put it into simpler terms.

“I’d say people would call him a nine-and-a-half, some others [call] him the forward who is linking the other two wingers,” Pareja said. “I’d just say that he is a playmaker that has to have an offensive mind. I would like to grow him there.”

Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.