COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – If all goes to plan, the Colorado Rapids will have midfielder Martin Rivero back in the starting lineup for their next match after this weekend's bye.
The Rapids have treated their prized 23-year-old playmaker with kid gloves. After already suffering two injury setbacks this season, head coach Oscar Pareja wants to make sure his dynamic attacking midfielder is ready to go when Colorado faces Sporting Kansas City at Sporting Park on August 31 (8:30 p.m. ET, watch on MLS Live).
“Martin is progressing, Martin is helping the group. He’s coming in a very key time, and he’s building his game up into the team, and now this week is going to help him to be part of reserve game [August 27 against Chivas USA] and get some playing time there,” Pareja told MLSsoccer.com this week. “At the same time, [we want to] just [him] get some intra-squad [games] that we’ll get on Saturday.”
Rivero suffered a thigh strain in June, an injury that he predicted would leave him out for only two weeks. Two months and 10 games later, he returned to the field as a second half substitute in the Rapids’ 1-1 draw with Chivas, in which the Argentine scored his first goal of the season on an 80th minute header. Then, in the Rapids’ 2-0 win last Saturday over the Vancouver Whitecaps, Rivero again came on as a substitute, with Pareja explaining last weekend that he wanted to make sure he was fully healthy before returning to the starting lineup.
“We had two bad experiences with Martin, we brought him early and he [got] hurt,” Pareja said. “I think at this point we can afford to give him a little bit more time because he can help us.”
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After leading the Rapids in assists in a successful first season at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, Rivero’s 2013 has been a disappointment, derailed by a string of injuries that started with a broken foot in the preseason. Now, the attention is solely focused on getting him back to the field in time for the Colorado's final eight games of the season.
“I think he’s still getting the rhythm. He’s not 100 percent,” Pareja said. “He’s physically ready, but I think in that position, he needs more rhythm, and he knows it. With Martin, we’re being patient now that we have the luxury to have people who are working well.”
Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.