At the beginning of 2017, it looked like Orlando City’s original three-year plan was starting to pay off. Carlos Rivas had only been utilized as an impact substitute in his first two seasons in Orlando. But this year was different. He was playing in a familiar role that got him noticed at Deportivo Cali and earned a starting spot next to Cyle Larin.
He made the most of his opportunity as the Lions roared out of the gate and Rivas looked like the Designated Player he was signed to be. He was on pace to set a single-season assist record for Orlando City and his shots were ending up in the back of the net instead of the parking lot. Then the team started to decline and Rivas started to settle into his old habits. Eventually, he was replaced by Dom Dwyer in the summer window.
The Colombian’s future is in question after yet another season of failing to live up to his potential.
2017 was unequivocally Rivas’ best year in purple. He had already set personal MLS bests for starts, goals, and assists by early July. He finished with five goals and five assists to finish third and tied for first in those categories, respectively, among all Lions. His 1,960 minutes were a career high, as were his 76 shots and 19 shots on goal. He also had a career low three yellow cards.
After two full years, things were starting to click. He was still taking an average of 2.5 shots per game, but he was starting to score goals even though only 25% of his shots troubled opposing keepers. Even though he was playing centrally instead of out wide, he was still creating opportunities for his teammates and finished seventh on the team in creating scoring chances.
But one of the biggest issues with Rivas so far in Orlando came up again. His inconsistency showed and his performance fell off a cliff. All of his assists came in the first three months of the season. In his final 10 appearances, Rivas only managed to put two shots on target. His passing percentage, consistently one of the worst on the team over the past two years, was at a record low 68.2%, ahead of only Dwyer, Tony Rocha, and Joe Bendik.
His playing time suffered as a result and after missing just one match in the first 27, Carlos only managed 122 minutes over the final six games.
Unlike previous seasons, there wasn’t a single game that the Colombian forward took over and dominated, but Carlos was arguably the best player on the pitch when Orlando City edged Philadelphia 2-1 back in March. Even though he was only credited with one assist, Rivas was a cornerstone on both scoring plays and set up another scoring chance.
As you can tell from the match highlights, he was everywhere for the Lions and delivered a clever backheel to set up the winning goal:
The biggest positive for Rivas was that he was a key piece of the attack without attempting a shot. Even though the young striker wants to take his chances, he didn’t waste possessions and instead opted to put his teammates into dangerous positions.
Final 2017 Grade
Carlos Rivas’ turbulent year earned him a 4.5 grade from The Mane Land staff. His fall from grace and unreliability sunk the talented young forward’s season and once again he was relegated to the bench. His inconsistency and lack of good decision-making meant more of the same for Rivas in 2017, even with an uptick in offensive output.
Rivas may get another shot in 2018 but in all likelihood his time left in Orlando is short. Through three full seasons, he has been incapable of becoming the key player he was signed to be and living up to his potential. Should Orlando wish to pull the Designated Player tag off of Rivas, his cap hit would still be one of the highest on the current roster. Head Coach Jason Kreis and the rest of the front office will need to weigh Rivas’ potential and production with his fit and worth. Can the Lions afford the luxury of Rivas off the bench in year four?