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“This year is a whole different Tico”: Damian Rivera off to hot start in 2022

Damian Rivera is having a hot start to the 2022 season.

North Texas SC v New England Revolution II Photo by Tim Bouwer/ISI Photos/Getty Images

Damian Rivera has been with the New England Revolution since 2019 but something is different about him this year.

“This year is a whole different Tico,” Noel Buck said after training on Wednesday. “He’s come here, he’s hungry, he wants to improve, he loves to play. It’s a whole different player than what I saw last year with Revs II and I think it’s going to be a big year for him.

Rivera has been tearing it up with Revs II so far this season. He has three goals in just two games so far this season. In 2021 he scored a team-best six goals along with one assist while with the second team.

“As a team, I think we have played well,” Rivera said when asked about his performance. “Coming off three goals in the last two games, I’m really excited for that and I think we have to keep going with that. I think the team has great chemistry and I think that is what strives us to do well.”

While Andrew Farrell and Henry Kessler are headed in the right direction in terms of health, New England will be short-handed headed into Saturday’s matchup against Inter Miami CF. It seems like a prime opportunity to give Rivera some first-team experience, especially with how well he has been playing.

When asked about being involved in the first team lineup, Rivera said whenever his name is called he will be ready to perform. If the 19-year-old is to get some playing time with the first team, it would be just his second MLS appearance with his debut coming against FC Cincinnati in August of 2021.

Still, there are areas of the game where Rivera can improve as a player. From the beginning of the preseason, improving his defensive skills have been a focus of the Cranston, Rhode Island native.

“The coaches are telling me, ‘keep pushing, keep pushing,’ and it’s helping a lot for sure,” Rivera stated.”

So what is different about this year’s Rivera? Buck says it all comes down to mentality.

“If you are willing to do the work, if you are willing to do all the things off the field, on the field, just everywhere. It’s like a full-time job. You always have to be thinking about the next day, the next practice, the next meal, and I think he has been doing that really well and it obviously shows on the field.”

Rivera is definitely a player that Revs fans should keep an eye on. At 19 years old, he has plenty of soccer ahead of him, but he still might make an impact on the first team quite soon.