COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — If you happen to take a stroll or a drive through the heart of downtown Denver, it’d be hard to miss the giant billboard featuring Colorado Rapids midfielder Martín Rivero staring down on pedestrians and drivers by at the intersection of Park and Blake.
On the billboard, a smile-less Rivero is intently focused on the camera, a perfect snapshot of the compact playmaker's typical off-field demeanor.
“My Argentine friends laugh at it,” Rivero says of the sign.
Sure, it’s just a billboard, one of hundreds plastered around downtown Denver. But the ad represents exactly what the Rapids think of their No. 10: a franchise cornerstone and a building block for the team moving forward.
After working his way back from the first serious injury of his career, a broken foot suffered in late January, Rivero returned to the starting lineup earlier this month for a 2-0 win at Columbus on May 11, and his corner kick set up the lone Rapids goal in their 1-1 draw at San Jose on Saturday night.
“I’m happy because I’ve started to play again, and I’m trying to get my rhythm back to get back to my level,” Rivero told MLSsoccer.com last week. “I need a little time, hopefully it’s not too much. But, I’m tranquil because I’m doing what I love to do: play.”
It's tempting to look at Rivero’s move to MLS last year as a stepping stone for a future move to Europe. Then just 22, he arrived in Colorado in February 2012 not speaking a word of English and leaving his native Argentina for essentially the first time in his life (he’d only visited neighboring Uruguay once prior).
But after a highly successful opening campaign at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park where he led his new team in assists while starting all 30 MLS games he appeared in, Rivero established himself as the key distributor in Rapids head coach Oscar Pareja’s new attack-oriented midfield, and Rivero says he’s enjoying his time in Colorado.
“I want to keep growing as a player,” he said. “Doing the best that I can for the club here in Colorado will be beneficial, then if there’s something much better, I’d be welcome to it, because every person wants to grow personally and for their family. But right now, I’m only thinking about the Rapids.
“It’s something the club and my representatives are going to work on,” Rivero said. “I’m comfortable here and [the Rapids] treat me very well, the idea is to keep going a while longer. I’m happy here because I’m doing well at the club.”
Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.