When Revolution II battled Union Omaha on May 12, it didn’t take long for Damian Rivera to make an impression. Within a span of 12 minutes, the midfielder engineered back-to-back chances that lifted spectators out of their seats, hinting at his growing confidence.
On the first play, Rivera nutmegged a defender on the endline, drove into the box, and rifled a shot to the near post. Minutes later, he deftly evaded a defender on the byline, beat another opponent inside the box, and cushioned a teasing service in front of goal.
Rivera has emerged as one of Revs II’s key offensive playmakers in his sophomore season. Just 18 years old, he’s started in each of Revs II’s four matches this spring, surpassing 1,000 career minutes last Sunday.
“I’ve been in a pretty good spot so far,” Rivera told The Bent Musket. “I’m playing more as a playmaker and creator, and now I just want to get them in the back of the net.”
While the midfielder––who has played out wide for Revs II––is still searching for his first goal of 2021, he’s arguably been the team’s best playmaker. A skilled maestro with piercing dribbling ability, Rivera paces Revs II in shots (9) this season and has also provided service for Justin Rennicks and Ryan Sierakowski up top.
“From the start of [last season] to now, I think I’ve definitely improved a lot,” Rivera said. “I’m understanding the game better and getting used to the physical side of it.”
“He’s having more ideas in the attack,” Clint Peay added. “He’s a dribbler and he’s now looking to be the provider as well––and that’s getting better.”
Rivera cut his teeth with Revolution Academy, playing there for over three years before he signed a first-team Homegrown contract in November 2019. While he’s spent time with the first team in training, his professional minutes have solely come with Revs II. Last year, Rivera started in 9 of 14 games for Clint Peay’s side, contributing two goals and one assist.
“[Revs II] is very important for me and some other guys,” Rivera said. “In past years, guys that wouldn’t start the games [for the Revolution] would usually just not play. Now, you can play with Revs II. You get your minutes and you maintain your fitness.”
When he spends time with the first team, Rivera says that Andrew Farrell and Teal Bunbury have been particularly helpful in helping him transition to the professional level. There’s also a plethora of top-tier attacking firepower on Arena’s roster––from Carles Gil to Teal Bunbury––who offer Rivera inspiration and instruction.
As the youngster searches for MLS minutes, he’ll continue to use Revs II (1-2-1) as a fertile platform to grow. He knows there’s still work to be done––especially on the defensive end––but from the eye test alone, the youngster is growing in confidence, day by day.
“I want to keep improving and use the second team as a confidence booster,” Rivera said. “When the call comes up for the first team, I’ll hopefully make an impact. When I get the chance, I want to make the most of it.”