COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — It wasn’t long ago that Rapids head coach Oscar Pareja left midfielder Martín Rivero on the bench for Colorado's 2-1 loss to the LA Galaxy back in April.
Now, it would be hard to imagine Rivero anywhere but the starting lineup.
Despite scoring just once (May 6 at Dallas), Rivero’s impact of late is a big reason why the Rapids have tallied 12 goals in their last six MLS games.
GOAL: Rivero slots home
“I reviewed the tape last night again, and the second time I see it on the tape, I see more,” Pareja told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday. “Martín has been improving in the strength of his rhythm. I think now I can see him running a little bit more free and he’s getting first to the ball, and that’s important for him.
"Before he got it, he got the ideas, but he was getting a little short. But I saw against Kansas City a player that was getting first on the ball. So I think those 10 yards he’s improving a lot and that gives us a lot from Martin, since he is the glue.”
The Rapids’ dynamic midfield ace has enjoyed a purple patch of form over the past month, collecting an assist in each of the team's last two MLS games and even picking up Man of the Match honors in the last league match, a 3-2 win over Montreal. The Argentine’s consistent midfield play and set pieces set the tone for a rare comeback victory.
Rivero has been asked to be the creative force in the heart of the Rapids’ midfield since making his Colorado debut on April 1, and it’s been a difficult transition at times for the 5-foot-9 midfielder. But of late, the Rosario Central product has appeared more comfortable with his role and the physicality of his new league.
“It’s physical, you run a lot, [and] there are very good teams,” the 22-year-old said of the differences between MLS and the Argentine leagues. “Now we go to [Vancouver] and hope to show the will to keep getting better. But there are many differences between here and Argentine soccer, and hopefully I can adapt quickly to them.”
At the beginning of the season Rivero struggled to maintain a consistent foothold in matches, often struggling to stay involved for large portions of games. But lately, he’s re-asserted himself as a classic No. 10, and Pareja attributes the team’s good run of form to Rivero figuring out how to impose himself upon the game.
“Martín is short," Colorado's boss said. "Martín is not like Omar [Cummings], speed. Martin is dynamic and he is technical. And how he can match the physicality of the league is what we are getting to. But now he will understand that that talent and that savvy that he has, has to be tied into some explosive movements in the ten yards. Remember that we’re coming from South America where the game is slower.”
As for the player himself, Rivero said added time in his new environment has ultimately made the biggest difference in his recent return to form.
“I feel more comfortable and I’m getting the rhythm I want in games,” said Rivero, who had never left South America before coming to the Rapids. “I feel more comfortable and more confident day by day.”
Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.