LOS ANGELES – New England Revolution Homegrown Player Damian Rivera signed with the first team ahead of the 2020 MLS season.
Rivera developed for more than three years in the Revolution Academy and became the seventh-ever Revolution Academy product to earn promotion to the first team, added to the roster when he was only 16 years old.
“I joined the Academy when I was about 12 years old,” Rivera told Mike "Sarge" Riley during a recent roundtable with fellow Homegrown products Justin Rennicks and Noel Buck. “There was no second team [at that point]. I remember my last year in the Academy, there was no second team yet, so that was definitely a big jump.”
Fast forward two professional seasons and Rivera has made significant strides since he signed at 16.
Rivera has featured extensively for the second team, seeing action in 39 games with Revolution II. After making his professional debut on August 7, 2020, against Orlando City B during Revs II's inaugural season, he has totaled 34 starts in those 39 appearances while playing 2,720 minutes and registering eight goals and two assists.
In fact, Rivera ranks high in Revs II history as he is second in games played and starts.
“He’s improving. He’s still young, he’s 19 years old,” said head coach Bruce Arena. “The time with Revs II last year was important for him.”
Approximately one year after Rivera made his Revs II debut in his first professional game, he hit another milestone as he had his first-ever appearance for the first team against FC Cincinnati, playing 28 minutes on August 21, 2021.
As Rivera now prepares ahead of the 2022 campaign, the Cranston, R.I. native’s progress is evident.
“[I’ve noticed] his growing development as a player,” said Brad Knighton. “Coming in kind of being the younger guy last year and kind of getting his feet wet in preseason and getting used to being around the guys and playing at this level on a daily basis and the strides that he made last year, and then coming in preseason and how sharp he’s been, it’s been a testament to him.
“It’s good for him. I think he’s going to be able to contribute this year along with Noel and all these other guys. It’s good for these guys to get minutes and time under them, and last year was a great step for Tico, and he’s looking to build on that this year, I assume.”
Rivera looks up to all of the veterans in the locker room and aims to learn from them both on and off the field.
“I see [Andrew] Farrell [as a mentor],” said Rivera. “Me and Farrell kind of talk.
“I look at Carles [Gil] like a role model. We kind of play the same position and he’s a perfect role model for me. He’s the best player in the league. He’s the number 10, and I look at him like the things he’s done, I think it can improve my game a lot. Like when the coach is saying look what he does, his movement and stuff, it helps a lot.”
Even coach Arena has noticed the growth that the young playmaker is building.
“He’s come into this camp with a better fitness level than he has in the past,” said Arena. “He’s looked good so far and we’re hopeful he can be a player that’s going to compete for our gameday roster.”