MONTREAL — The Montreal Impact unveiled Nelson Rivas as their very first MLS player Monday afternoon at Saputo Stadium.
Rivas, a 28-year-old Colombian defender, was presented by technical director Nick De Santis and head coach Jesse Marsch, both of whom expect the Serie A veteran to play as a central defender for the Impact.
“I'm motivated to join the Montreal Impact and have the chance to work with professional people," said Rivas, who will be joining the team on a two-year contract. "I'm confident that we are going to be a strong club in MLS. This is a big challenge and new reality for me to join a league that is becoming more important worldwide.”
Rivas, who will wear the No. 2 kit, belonged to the prestigious Italian first division club Inter Milan from 2007 to 2011 and made his debut with Inter during a Champions League match versus Fenerbahçe on September 19, 2007.
During his years with Inter – during which he suffered several injuries that limited his time on the field – he played against several top teams in the world, including a Champions League match against Manchester United in 2009. He last played for Inter on Jan. 12 in a Coppa Italia win over Genoa.
He made a total 28 appearances for Inter across all competitions, and helped the Italian club win the Serie A championship twice, in 2007-08 and 2008-09. They also won the Italian Super Cup in 2008. With Inter, Rivas played under head coaches Roberto Mancini, José Mourinho and Leonardo.
During the 2009-10 season, in which Inter brought home the UEFA Champions League title, Rivas was loaned to AS Livorno in Serie A, where he played 16 matches and scored two goals. He was then loaned to Ukrainian club Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk for part of the 2011 season.
Previously, the native of Pradera, Colombia, played for legendary Argentine side River Plate in 2007. At the beginning of his career, he also won two Copa Mustang championships in Colombia, first with Desportes Tolima in 2003, then with Deportivo Cali in 2005. Rivas played more than 100 games with Deportivo Cali, one of the top clubs in the Colombian first division, from 2003 to 2006.
Marsch was excited to begin working with Rivas Tuesday morning.
“We are excited to bring on board a player like Nelson,” said the head coach, who is still looking at adding a few other players for 2012. “We’re in a good place right now and we’re still looking to add to the team.
“We’re committed to put very good players on the field. I think it sets the tone for what kind of players we want to bring in for 2012, and what type of organization we want to be. I am confident that his talent and great experience will make our club and team better.”
Part of what made Montreal keen on Rivas was his spot in the middle of the defense. Marsch, a hard-nosed two-way midfielder in his playing days, seems intent on building through the spine of the team.
"We’ve spent a lot of time at looking at key position on the field,” explained Marsch. “We’re looking for cornerstones of the team, strong players, on and off the field.”