COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – Standing at a generously listed 5-foot-9 and an unimposing 160 pounds, Colorado Rapids midfielder Martín Rivero doesn’t come off as the type of player who might be able to adapt quickly to a physical league like MLS.
Throw in Rivero’s tender age of 22 and the fact that he’s been busy settling into the first significant venture overseas of his life (he had only left his native Argentina once, for neighboring Uruguay, prior to coming to the US in February), and Rivero has emerged as a surprising bright spot in an otherwise frustrating season for the 8-15-1 Rapids, who host Chivas USA on Saturday (9 pm ET, MLS Live).
“Martín is continuing to adapt to the league. He’s a young player and has personality and he understands the league better every day,” Rapids head coach Oscar Pareja said of the former Rosario Central man. “He’s a player who’s growing.”
Playing mostly in an attacking midfield role as the team’s No. 10, Rivero is tied for the team lead with seven assists while also serving as the primary taker of set pieces in his first season. He’s has started 20 of Colorado’s 24 games this season and has firmly established himself as a staple in Pareja’s starting lineup, despite a somewhat inconsistent start to his time with the Rapids.
“It’s very important to have a full preseason, which I had here. The first few games [in MLS], I had to adapt a little to American soccer,” said Rivero, who at times struggled to stay involved in matches during his first few games with the Rapids. “I think that after those first few games I’ve done well.”
Rivero has adapted well to the physicality of MLS, showing in recent weeks an added propensity to get into more tussles with opposing players, and the extra bout of physical play has yet to take its toll on his smaller body.
“Here, training well and having the proper staff is important to being where you want to be physically,” Rivero said. “In Argentina, it’s similar, everybody has their way of training. I feel well, though our results haven’t been what we’ve wanted, personally I’m very happy to be here.”
As far as a future in his new country, Rivero, appears to be open to the possibility of settling in his new home.
“Yes, for sure,” Rivero said when asked about the possibility of staying with the Rapids on a longer-term basis. “I like the city, the people treat me well and my family as well is very comfortable. I’ve enjoyed myself here in Colorado.”
Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.