Martin Rivero has not started a match for the Colorado Rapids in quite some time. In fact, he didn't even see the field against FC Dallas on Saturday. Yet, despite his lack of play, the Rapids still won. In fact, they've won quite a few games without Rivero on the field this season. Right now the team is sitting at 12-8-9 with five games to go, and the vast majority of those games haven't had Rivero making an impact in them. He was out injured with a broken foot at first, and then several more minor knocks followed.
Now, he's back in full form, and he's sitting on the bench at the start of most gamedays, with the midfield trio of Dillon Powers, Nathan Sturgis and Hendry Thomas taking the reins. Oscar Pareja has made it very clear that Rivero being a bench presence is 100% a tactical choice. Some fans have not taken kindly to that idea.
Remember, prior to this season, pretty much all of our eggs were expected to be in the Rivero basket. After the disaster that was 2012, we really didn't have much else to look forward to. Absolutely nothing went right last year, Rivero's good looking rookie campaign being, really, the lone exception. Things have changed, though. Colorado have shifted their midfield ideals this season thanks to the blossoming of Sturgis and Powers. Last year, they really only had one option if they wanted a possession midfielder, that being Hendry Thomas. (Remember the days of Jeff Larentowicz being paired with Jaime Castrillon and Rivero in the midfield? It's no wonder we gave up so many counter-attacks and had so little possession outside of our defensive third.) With him in there as the anchor man and Rivero at the top, we saw the start of that whole 'spine' midfield that Ben and I love to blather on about. The creative anchor of the team at the top, the linking midfielder in the center, the defensive anchor in the back.
However, things have changed since starting the preseason with that mentality, and it's all been because of the quick rise of Vicente Sanchez.
Colorado isn't Barcalona, needing to play a top six full of creativity so as to keep the ball away from their opponent to mask an awful defense. Nor are they RSL, who rely almost 100% on their midfield to make offense happen. Instead, they are far more like the LA Galaxy nowadays. Colorado's attacking style is far more reliant on the fullbacks and wing-strikers, relying on possession and patience in the center of the park to help to that end. LA uses their one creative spark (Landon Donovan) as the outlet for Juninho and Sarvas' midfield possession. Colorado can either use Sanchez or Rivero in that creative spark role, and Pareja has given the job to the veteran, Sanchez. With him doing his job from the left, the top spot in the midfield can be given to a less creative, more possession-oriented guy like Dillon Powers or Nick Labrocca.
Rivero is a wonderful tool to have at our disposal, but he's certainly not the necessity that we expected him to be prior to the season. That is not necessarily a bad thing.