COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – Martín Rivero’s Rapids debut will likely be one that neither he nor any Colorado fan will soon forget. After showing flashes of creativity all through the first half on Saturday at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, it was early in the second frame when the Argentine provided the game’s decisive play.
Dribbling along the right wing in his own half, Rivero spun a perfect, stride-for-stride 30-yard deep ball straight to Brian Mullan, who crossed the ball to Omar Cummings for the game’s first tally in the 58th minute. The Rapids made that goal stand up in a 2-0 victory over Chicago.
OPTA Chalkboard: Rapids' Rivero active in MLS debut
“It’s exciting for the group,” Rapids coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “Having Martín today was good and it was his first game, and he doesn’t know the league and probably in the first half he missed a little bit of the rhythm. But I thought in the second half, he found it and started making everyone play better. I’m pleased with him.”
Rivero’s auspicious debut will be especially important considering the player he replaced in the Rapids starting lineup. Captain Pablo Mastroeni sat out as he continues to deal with concussion-like symptoms and his return is uncertain. But if Sunday is anything to go off, the promising 22-year-old’s play may make his loss a bit easier to swallow.
“He’s a good player, a good creative player,” Mullan told MLSsoccer.com of Rivero. “That’s why he’s here. Hopefully he hasn’t fully adjusted yet and it just gets better.”
Rivero’s assertiveness was on full display all match long, with the Rapids No. 10 taking his team’s only significant free kick in the 53rd minute, and all three first-half corners. But while his skill on the ball was easily spotted at practice in the weeks prior, it was another factor that led Pareja to feel confident putting him in high-pressure situations in his debut.
“We worked with it, Martín being the one to take the corners,” Pareja said. “Despite his youth, he has personality, and I like that.”
As for the player himself, Rivero left to a giant ovation from the supporters on hand on Sunday afternoon, and postgame, his smile was unmistakable in the Rapids locker room.
“The truth is I’m very happy and very calm,” said Rivero, who signed from Argentine side Rosario Central in February. “The most important thing is we were able to win.”