MONTREAL – The expression on Nelson Rivas’ face as he limped off two minutes into the Impact’s match at Toronto FC on May 28 spoke of dejection and despair -- as if he knew this was the end of something.
It turns out, it was.
Montreal announced on Tuesday that they’d removed the 31-year-old Rivas from their roster. Hours later, Impact sporting director Nick De Santis told MLSsoccer.com of an agreement the player and the club had reached after Rivas’ previous setback in Orlando, last February.
The Impact backed Rivas through that injury recovery, but both parties understood that another setback would signal the time for both to move on. The Colombian was the first player signed by the Impact ahead of their 2012 expansion season, yet he only appeared in 11 league matches over the course of three seasons.
“When he got hurt in Toronto, he understood that it was time to look at what's ahead of him in his career,” De Santis told MLSsoccer.com by phone on Tuesday. “For us, there was an agreement that, should he get hurt, we had to think of something else, of other players to replace him. He’s not on the roster anymore, but there was already a mutual agreement.”
Rivas was on a semi-guaranteed contract this season, allowing for Tuesday's transaction. Montreal retain rights of first refusal should Rivas return to MLS, but the player is currently free to join any club outside the league, which is an option he is mulling, according to De Santis.
“Before the sporting side, there’s the human side,” De Santis said. “If we thought Nelson was only here to make money and nothing else, he would have left us a year ago. But here’s a guy who always worked hard to recover, who wanted to show everyone at the club … that he could give something back. He wanted to play, to prove his worth.”
Rivas’ departure won’t impact Montreal’s salary budget significantly, though it does vacate an international roster spot. Coupled with the trade that sent Jeb Brovsky to New York City FC, De Santis has even more leeway in the search for a left back.
“We’re talking to some players,” De Santis said. “There was also [former Chicago Fire left back Krzysztof Król], who was on trial with us. We’re looking at what we can do with him as well.”
Olivier Tremblay covers the Montreal Impact for MLSsoccer.com.