It’s hard to start off your MLS career better than Damian Rivera did.
The 19-year-old out of Cranston Rhode Island scored the first goal of his career, in the first minute, with his first shot.
“I’m happy to get the goal there,” he said. “I think over the last two years I’ve been working hard, and I got my chance and I proved it on the field.”
Rivera played 72 minutes and had 46 touches while completing 79.3 percent of his passes. He also drew two fouls. Scoring in his debut, had Rivera speechless when speaking to the media after the game.
“In the [Revolution] Academy I always used to go to the first team games and watching [Carles] Gil play, I thought he was a spectacular player,” Rivera said. “And to play with him it’s incredible. Obviously, I wasn’t thinking about scoring a goal at that time with the first team. But to actually score a goal, I can’t describe the words.”
2022 has been a great year for Rivera. He scored three goals in as many games when with Revs II. Rivera said that he changed his mentality headed into this season.
“Yeah, I think this year, definitely a big change for me,” Rivera said. “I think I’ve gotten more fit. Some of the guys here, you know, like, Jarryd [Phillips] and James [Collins] have helped me. I feel fitter, and, you know, I just wanted to get a chance on the field. I did and I took the best of it.”
Phillips is the Director of Sports Performance for New England and Collins is the Head of Sports Science.
Matt Turner was happy for the hometown kid after the match.
“I was really pleased for [Damian],” he said. “But again, like we’re going need him to consistently perform for us, right. I thought he had a really good game in D.C. He earned that time out there on the pitch tonight and he rewarded us with a goal in the first minute.”
While Rivera deserves the credit for scoring the goal, getting a pre-game speech from Turner might have helped as well.
And I just told him even in our pregame huddle on the field, I literally said to [Damian], ‘show the world, show the fans, what you show us in training every single day,” Turner said. “Take players on, be a handful, and he went he went out, he did that, and he scored, and I couldn’t be happier for him because he’s a quiet kid, but he works really, really hard.”
With Rivera growing through the academy and spending time with Revs II, it was even more rewarding to see him find the back of the net.
“I think at times we need to invest in these young players and try to move them along and it can’t be in jeopardy of losing points... but at times we’re reluctant to use a young player,” Bruce Arena told Revolution TV broadcast. “[Rivera] has worked real hard over the last two years to get where he is and we had to give him a chance and I think doing it at home makes a lot more sense and obviously he responded quite well. We invest a lot of time and money in our academy and second team and we need to start producing some of those players.”
Rivera will look to continue to perform well when New England plays the Columbus Crew on Saturday but April 30 will be a day that he remembers forever.