10_27_22 Damian Rivera Goal Youth Soccer

FOXBOROUGH, Mass.Damian Rivera has one very specific memory about the beginning of his soccer journey as a five-year-old growing up in Rhode Island. Playing with Goal Youth Soccer of Providence – the Cranston native’s first organized experience with the game – Rivera doesn’t remember a specific goal, or a dramatic win, or even kicking the ball around with his friends.

“I remember going in my first season and I actually picked the ball up with my hands,” Rivera recently recalled with a laugh. “It was the first place where I really fell in love with soccer.”

Rivera, now one month shy of his 20th birthday and heading into his fourth professional season with the New England Revolution, wants to make sure that other young Rhode Islanders have the same opportunities he had to play (and learn) the game at that age, so when his mother mentioned that a friend’s two sons wanted to participate in the last session but couldn’t afford the registration fees, Rivera stepped up.

Now, with Rivera as their sponsor, Byron and Ever Reyes are set to play the indoor winter session, ensuring that they’ll have the chance to continue falling in love with the game that has brought Rivera so much joy since that first childhood memory in Providence.

“[They’re] two good kids, and they love soccer, as well – maybe as much as me,” said Rivera. “For me to put a smile on their faces means a lot. They love soccer, so I think they deserve the opportunity to play like the kids there.”

Rivera added a personal touch to his donation by visiting Goal Youth Soccer this past Saturday afternoon, signing autographs for the children and distributing Revolution-branded water bottles provided by the club. He relayed his story to the kids, who listened in awe as he told them that he had started at the same age as them, playing in the same building, kickstarting his own professional soccer journey.

“Everybody there was very welcoming,” Rivera said. “I hadn’t been there in years, and I remember some memories there. I think I played there maybe a year, year-and-a-half, so I remember the building and everything. But walking in there gave me a lot of memories, and I was sitting down right where those kids were when I was that age, as well.

“A bunch of kids there, they want to be professional soccer players, as well, and to know someone that went there and became a pro is inspiring to a lot of the kids, so me donating back to a program like that means a lot.”