COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – New Colorado Rapids attacking midfielder Martín Rivero had a whirlwind two-and-a-half days between last Sunday night and Wednesday morning.
After making the nearly 6,000-mile journey from the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires to Denver – which included a delayed flight and a lost bag while connecting in Houston – Rivero toured his new home on Tuesday and participated in his practice Wednesday morning, leaving the Rapids’ new No. 10 gasping for air in his first game at altitude.
“I felt it a little bit,” Rivero told MLSsoccer.com after his first practice with the team on Wednesday. “But I felt good, happy. I hope with the next few practices I’ll get used to it.”
Despite the thin air, the product of Argentine second-division side Rosario Central was quick to impress his new teammates in his first practice; during an intra-squad scrimmage Wednesday, a booming rocket from 20 yards left goalkeeper Matt Pickens completely helpless as the shot skimmed off the goalpost and into the back of the net.
The 22-year-old also featured in the Rapids’ final scrimmage of the preseason – a 4-0 win over local college Colorado School of Mines on Saturday afternoon, before being substituted for Brian Mullan after 58 minutes.
“[Practices] are very different. Here you run a lot more, and over there, they ask us to have the ball a lot more,” Rivero said of the difference in training methods between the Rapids and Rosario Central. “In Argentina, we were doing very well, but I hope I can repeat my performance from my last six months over here.”
Rivero’s agent, Martin Gonzalez, confirmed to MLSsoccer.com this past Wednesday that Rivero does not have a European Union passport, making a transaction to a European club difficult despite his standout performance. He’d attracted notice after notching four goals in 20 games last summer for los Canallas, one of or Argentina’s bigger clubs who have, like River Plate, fallen upon hard times.
The Rapids hope that proves to be their good fortune. Oscar Pareja & Co. feel they’ve uncovered a diamond in the Argentine second division, and likewise Rivero thinks he’s landed at a team capable of competing for a spot atop the MLS standings.
“This is a team that’s going to fight and filled with a lot of very good players,” Rivero said. “With hard work and a lot of confidence, we will be fighting in the top of the table and doing important things.”