Cranston native Damian Rivera’s dream is becoming a reality, as he recently began his first-ever training camp as a member of the New England Revolution soccer club of the MLS.
Rivera, 17, became the seventh homegrown player out of the Revolution Youth Academy to sign a professional contract last November, and is currently the youngest player on the team’s roster.
“I was really excited when I heard the news. Me, my family, we always wanted (me to be) be a professional. Now that I have the opportunity, I just need to take advantage of it,” said Rivera.
Rivera spent three years in the Revolution Academy as a developmental prospect. In 90 appearances at the U-14, U-16, U-17 and U-19 level, he surpassed 40 goals. He received his first international call-up for a camp with the US Under-17 Men’s National Team last November as well.
Prior to joining the Revolution Academy, Rivera spent time at Bayside FC and participated in Project Goal. He is the second Rhode Island native on the Revolution roster, joining fellow Academy player Isaac Angking, who is originally from Providence.
The process has been a whirlwind, according to Rivera, who is confident that the time he spent in the Academy has helped him put his best foot forward as the regular season quickly approaches.
“Everything came at me pretty quick, it all happened really fast. I had a few meetings with the team, with coach (Bruce) Arena, but I was really surprised,” said Rivera. “I have grown a lot thanks to my coaches in the past few years through the academy. Now, I feel like I have all the tools to be successful.”
Rivera is also excited to make his mark on the program despite being the youngest player, and hopes to contribute in any way he can and maybe even see playing time in his first professional season.
“It’s going to be different, the guys are bigger and faster. But I am prepared, I am coming in confident and I am excited to see what I can contribute to the team. I am going to just want to be a good teammate and do whatever I can to help my teammates and hopefully I will be able to see the field at some point,” said Rivera.
Rivera is also proud to be representing his home team and believes that his signing could help open the door for other local talent in the future.
“I think this shows that there’s a lot of talent in Rhode Island, as well as the Academy and in these youth teams,” said Rivera. “I am excited to be a part of what has always been my favorite team.”