The L.A. Blues finish their first USL Pro season Sunday without their breakout star, who was suspended after he decided he wasn't going to go on a road trip, but don't be surprised if Cesar Rivera is back on the field when the playoffs begin next week.
The attacker, who has experience in Mexico but was culled from L.A.'s rich semipro circuit, is a most complicated figure -- and that has coupled often glorious performances with petulant outbursts. And questionable decisions, such as not joining his teammate for the trek a week ago for games in Wilmington, N.C., and Antigua.
“I don't know if we've seen the last of him,” head coach Charlie Naimo said after the Blues' 0-0 draw Friday with the Richmond Kickers, their foe again Sunday at 5 p.m. at Norco College . “I talk to him every day. I support him. There's just a certain way things need to be done. ... It was a decision that a player can't dictate whether or not they want to go on a trip or not. He took the way out that I didn't want him to take.
“I still support that boy. I think he's an enormous talent. Guys I talk to in this league think he's the best player they've seen. I haven't ruled out that he play for us again this season, because I really believe if he does, he ends up in MLS next year. I've got a couple calls about him.”
Rivera, 24, who was a junior college All-American at Mt. San Antonio College, has remarkable technical gifts and a knack for the net. He has scored a team-best nine goals in all competitions and, until the arrivals of veteran Antiguan forward Peter Byers and Mexican forward Jonathan de Leon, was the Blues' only regular scoring threat.
Naimo said Rivera has some understanding of his talent, of where it could get him, and of the problems he must overcome to get there.
“Yes and no,” Naimo said. “I think he realizes he has the ability to do it. I don't know who's advising him. I don't think he realizes what a complete season and the accolades he would have gotten in this league could have springboarded him, you know?
“He's a good kid. He really is. ... I'm going to continue to do whatever I can for him, because he's got a big heart.”
WORTH NOTING: The finale means absolutely nothing after Wilmington secured second place in the American Division, with Richmond third, with a victory Saturday at Dayton. ... Three quarterfinal matchups (Harrisburg-Blues, Rochester-Pittsburgh and Wilmington-Richmond) will be played Friday night, with Orlando City home against Charleston on Saturday.