Sometime shortly after noon today, Cibola graduate Sergio Rivas will walk across a stage in Chicago and don a Major League Soccer uniform after his selection in the MLS SuperDraft, almost certainly becoming the highest draft pick from New Mexico.
Rivas, 21, who attended Seattle University and played his formative club years for NM Rush, is projected to go from as high seventh to the Minnesota United to 18th and Columbus in various mock drafts.
“Those are just lists,” Rivas said by phone earlier in the week from the MLS combine on Orlando, Fla., where he showed very well. He scored a goal in one of the two games he played alongside other top talent.
“You never know what’s going to happen with the draft,” he said. “Just seeing my name being recognized as a top talent, it means a lot to me, but I expect that because I’ve worked very hard to get that.”
Rivas, who was the Albuquerque Journal’s All-Metro high school soccer player of the year as a senior in 2015, was the Class 6A leader in goals and points that season.
Although not recruited heavily out of high school, with just scholarship offers from the Redhawks and Valparaiso, Seattle offered the advantage of being a Catholic university and proximity to MLS teams in Seattle and Portland, Ore.
He finished his Redhawks career with 18 goals and a school-record 27 assists, which also is second in Western Athletic Conference history.
It is that ability to both create and finish goals that makes him attractive at the next level, said his college coach, Pete Fewing. He has spoken with seven MLS team about Rivas, listed by Seattle at 5-foot-11, 170 pounds.
“Body-wise, he’s a good fit,” Fewing said. “He’s got the physical part and his pace is good. His ability to separate when taking someone on, change direction, passing ability and dribbling. The quality of his passing is very good. He can take the ball and glide past someone.”
Rivas plays primarily attacking midfielder, but he can work the outside alleys of the field as well. But it is in the middle where his true value shines and has attracted notice.
“Rivas adds two things that Minnesota are lacking — firepower and creativity,” said Ben Levin, an analyst for TopDrawerSoccer.com. “Rivas can score and create as well as anyone in the draft.”
That is what appeals to Rivas, as well.
“I have the creativity to attack and score and assist goals,” he said. “I have the mobility and the defensive skills, the brain and the motor in my system to keep going as a true (center midfielder).”
As to where he ends up, Rivas said he’s not really too picky as long as he gets a shot, because he has always been driven to succeed.
“I worked so hard that it led me to success,” he said. “The first year of (the Olympic Development Program), the reason I got to travel was a couple of the guys couldn’t go and they called me as a reserve. I kept working hard to be the best one there. And after that, to be the best one in Rush and make the national Rush team and so on. Every single thing, I just want to be the best in it.”
Before heading to Orlando for the MLS combine and training camp, Rivas returned to Albuquerque to train with his club coach, Justin Sells.
“Everything we worked on, I have succeeded in at the MLS combine,” he said. “We worked on some fitness. I felt like I was really fit. We worked on some shooting and I scored. It didn’t happen by surprise; it comes by working hard.”
And now that he has a chance to play in the MLS, Rivas can envision setting his sights higher.
“You just never know with the future,” he said. “For me, I want to make it a steppingstone to open my doors to other places. I’m the type of person to achieve a goal and pursue my next dream. I want to conquer the MLS and after that we’ll see what the next step is. But you just never know with the future.”
No matter where his soccer career takes him in the future, however, Rivas said he will always be representing New Mexico and Albuquerque.
“Absolutely, I take that very prideful,” he said. “I’m leading the city and I want to show the other kids that is it possible. I was raised in Albuquerque most of my life. Went to school there at Cibola High School and Cleveland Middle School. What drives me to succeed is to show everybody in Albuquerque that it is possible.”