MONTREAL – Former Inter Milan center back Nelson Rivas, who has been sidelined with a hamstring injury since the Montreal Impact’s preseason trip to Mexico, made his long-awaited comeback during a friendly at Centre Claude-Robillard on a windy Sunday afternoon.
Rivas helped the Impact keep a clean sheet as they thrashed Dartmouth College 5-0 thanks to a double by Eduardo Sebrango and goals from Hassoun Camara, Josh Gardner and Evan James.
The Colombian seemed comfortable through the 60 minutes he spent on the pitch, winning the vast majority of his duels and running at ease. Rivas’ passing was a bit off in the early going, but he improved as the game went on, cleaning up his distribution and showing his passing range.
Rivas’ injury raised many questions among the Montreal fans, as nobody seemed quite able to confirm just how long the 29-year-old would be out of commission, but it seems this setback is now behind the defender for good.
“We’re getting to the point where, physically, he’s fine,” Montreal head coach Jesse Marsch told MLSsoccer.com after the friendly. “We’re not just concerned about his hamstring, but about his overall [fitness] – that he’s got good agility, balance and strength in his entire body.
“Actually, we’ve been able to use this time when he’s been injured to get him there. Now, it’s just getting him game fitness, game speed and all that.”
The question will now be when and how Rivas will make the transition to competitive play. While Marsch stressed the importance of the Dartmouth game for Rivas’ progress, he also pointed out that bringing a central defender back into the squad is a tricky situation for any team.
Still, a busy month of May lies ahead for the Impact, a period during which Marsch said he will count on Rivas to contribute during what will be a demanding stretch.
“[Today] was not the intensity of what MLS games would feel like, but we’re going to figure out what’s best for Nelson and the team,” Marsch said. “If it means the best progression is that we start him one half, take him out at halftime and put somebody else in, then we’re going to do it. It’s just important that we get him going and help him establish himself within the team.”