Before the 2015 MLS season started, Orlando City were in search of attacking talent in order to bolster their team for their inaugural season. January brought the acquisition of young Colombian winger Carlos Rivas. Rivas was turning heads in Colombia’s top flight with Deportivo Cali when Orlando City discovered him. Two months after his signing, he made his MLS debut at twenty years old against fellow MLS newcomers, New York City FC.
Rivas started playing soccer at a very young age he said, “I started in Jamundi FC, that’s the name of the team where I played when I was a little kid. I got into soccer because when I was very young, my family was very involved with soccer. My parents, my
sisters also played around so that was the main reason. I was the one that kicked the ball around the house the most and also in the streets, and that is what led me to become a soccer player.”
Soccer is a profession that demands a lot of traveling and when a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity arises, it needs taken. After a short stint at Club América de Cali in 2008, Rivas moved more than 120 miles away from his family to play for Once Caldas. “I was like 13 or 14 years old when I left my family, so that hit me hard,” Rivas admitted. The young Colombian saw the opportunity to make a career out of his talent, but all great things come with a price. “I miss my parents the most. They are the most important people to me and they support me the most right now when I am away. Every time I am far from them, they are there supporting me in the good and the bad times.”
After a successful run at Once Caldas, Rivas returned to his family’s comfort to play for Colombian giants Deportivo Cali for a year and a half. Rivas was adamant that his hard work away from his family pay off, and he was very grateful for the chance he was given at Deportivo Cali, stating “God knew that he had big blessings coming for me and he gave that opportunity to play in a big club in Colombia and at the same time to be near my family.”
In his last season with Deportivo Cali, Rivas scored 12 goals in 29 appearances. His dynamite burst of form was what undoubtedly gained the interest of managers around the world. Despite the multitude of interest, the beginning of 2015 saw Rivas in purple with the Lions’ badge proudly on his chest. This move was another crucial decision that Rivas faced, but
the support from his family was more than enough to encourage his successful jump into MLS.
Rivas maintains a humble demeanor when he explains that he owes his success to the support of his family, “Every day I try to talk to my family, mostly with my mom, who is the one that is always there staying in touch with me. She has always been there.”
While Rivas praises his family infinitely for their support, he also credits his motivation to the support of his teammates, “I feel very good. I have teammates that when I was just starting here and wasn’t performing well, they had my back and gave me all the support I needed to return to the rhythm that I have always had.” Even though English is the dominant language in America, Rivas notes that he feels at home amongst fellow Latin Americans Cristian Higuita, Bryan Róchez, and Darwin Cerén. “Thanks to them, I am playing like this. I think about them as my family. They have given me a very important support to perform well and to get better,” he explained.
Rivas also likes to keep in touch with his South American roots through other media when he’s not with his Spanish-speaking teammates. “I like to listen to salsa because I’m from Cali. I dance a little. I haven’t danced yet but I am thinking of dancing when I score, so we’ll see.”
Carlos Rivas brings an abundance of positivity to the team, and he is starting to staple his number 11 onto the left side of the team sheet as the season progresses. “I am a very happy person; you’ll always see me with a smile on my face. It doesn’t matter if I’m having a problem, I will always keep my head high,” Rivas continued. “Now I feel very confident. I don’t feel as isolated as I felt some months ago, and I thank God and my teammates that give me that support that I need to be able to perform better. You can see that on the pitch, I have to improve daily and show why I’m here.”
The left footed winger is known for his bursts of pace down the left side, and his powerfully accurate crosses into the box. Rivas has yet to put his name on the score sheet for the Lions in MLS play, but it’s only a matter of time before he’ll get his first goal and Orlando City will witness an authentic Cali Salsa celebration.