The Colombian central defender has been training regularly with the Impact and feels he’s ready to start getting his first minutes in MLS.
MONTREAL – Seven months after being the first player to put pen to paper with the Montreal Impact as an MLS franchise, Nelson Rivas is setting his sights on finally making his league debut with the team.
“I’m really pleased with how he’s moving along physically,” Impact head coach Jesse Marsch told the media following Monday’s training session. “Now it’s just getting him up to game speed with different things and you can see his quality when he plays.”
The Colombian central defender has recovered from a right hamstring injury which he sustained during preseason camp in January and is now training regularly with the first team for a second consecutive week.
Rivas also played for sixty minutes in the Impact’s 5-0 friendly match win against Dartmouth College on Sunday at Claude Robillard Stadium. With a busy schedule in the offing, Rivas told the media - with the help of an interpreter - that he feels that he’s ready to start getting some playing time.
“I feel good, I feel really good” Rivas said. “Yesterday, I put in 60 minutes that gives me some confidence because I’ve been out for a lot of time. Little by little I’ll have to start playing to gain some form.
“It’s two weeks now that I’m training with the team. I’m training at 100 percent, I feel good and I believe that I’m available for the team, for the coach. If it was up to me I would have even played Saturday, but the coach will decide.”
Rivas, 29, spent two seasons from 2007 to 2009 as a backup player with Italian giants Inter Milan before moving on loan to Serie B’s Livorno for the 2009-2010 season, and then to Ukraine’s Dnipro in 2010-2011. Though his career has been, for the most part, plagued by injury and inconsistency, Impact sporting director Nick De Santis told La Presse last week that he was confident that the eventual inclusion of Rivas into the squad would solidify the defence and provide a significant overall boost to the team.
“When we talked about the club and the vision at the start of the season, we thought that the defence was going to be a lot more effective,” said De Santis. “With what Rivas showed in Mexico, and then also in training and paired up with [Matteo] Ferrari, he’s going to stabilize our backline.”
But with the Impact earning its first clean sheet in a 2-0 win last Saturday against the Portland Timbers at home, it seems as if Montreal’s defensive displays are already taking a turn for the better. With the central defensive pairing of Ferrari and Shavar Thomas steadily improving game by game, Nelson Rivas back in the fray, and Hasson Camara also having returned from injury and ready to play, the Impact suddenly have a lot more depth and look considerably more imposing defensively than they did at the start of the season.
“We knew from the start, that that was going to be a valuable spot to secure good players in, it’s the reason why Nelson was our first signing and we’ve tried to collect a good number of players there that are a very high caliber” Marsch explained.
The Impact face Toronto FC in the first leg of the Amway Canadian Championship on Wednesday in Montreal. Toronto has also had a slew of defensive problems this season and with a 3-2 loss away to Real Salt Lake on Saturday, the Reds have now surpassed the Impact for the worst defensive record in the league with 16 goals conceded in 7 games.
- Defender Zarek Valentin is day to day with a right calf injury, making defender Jeb Brovsky the favourite to take his place against Toronto on Wednesday.