Five years ago, Stony Point coach Winston Pool — then in his first year leading the Tigers — had a constant visitor at his practices.
The younger brother of one of his seniors regularly showed up, juggling a tennis ball on the sidelines.
Pool immediately noticed that this fifth-grader wasn’t just a nosy younger brother but someone with incredible potential.
Even then, Alan Rivera’s talent on the soccer field was evident.
Eventually, Pool let Rivera join in drills, then play in scrimmages, competing against players up to seven years older than him and literally twice his size.
Needless to say, Rivera becoming a prolific goal-scorer for Stony Point has been a long time coming.
Rivera, now a sophomore who plays as an attacking midfielder for the Tigers, just wrapped up a regular season where he broke the school record for goals, scoring 24 times to help the Tigers qualify for the playoffs out of District 13-6A.
“I didn’t expect the season to play out like this individually,” said Rivera, who also tallied 17 assists. “We graduated a lot of seniors last year, and I really wanted to lead us to team success. Any individual statistics I have are thanks to my teammates and (Pool) putting me in good situations.”
With his combined goals and assists, Rivera has played a part in more than 65 percent of Stony Point’s offense this year, a staggering mark for any soccer player.
“I knew we were going to rely on him quite a bit, but I didn’t see 24 and 17,” Pool said. “I knew if we got him to his potential, special things would happen. ... He’s what we call a playmaker. He sets up his teammates, and when we’re struggling he knows he has to pick it up and scores for us.”
Standing 5 feet, 7 inches, Rivera is more Lionel Messi than Cristiano Ronaldo. His strengths are his skills on the ball, quickness and ability to take on defenders, facilitate chances for teammates and finish shots.
“His game is more technical than speed and strength. It’s more stylistic,” said Stony Point junior forward Garrett El Deir, who is second on the team with 11 goals and nine assists. “Since I’m a bigger body, I can move off the ball and draw defenders and that opens up space for him and that makes for a good combination.”
“I’m very vocal and creative,” Rivera said. “I love to have fun with the game. I try to bring everyone into the game so we have success as a unit.”
Rivera started as a freshman, but like any freshman on varsity, had some growing pains as the Tigers struggled through a five-win campaign. However, that experience is one of many that has helped him to the success he and Stony Point have had the last few months.
“That really let me know what I needed to work on,” Rivera said. “It prepared me physically and got me ready for the much faster speed of play.”
Like all teams that have qualified for the playoffs, Stony Point is stuck in limbo because of the coronavirus. The UIL has postponed any athletic and extracurricular events until at least May 4. Whether the season is over or not, the future for Rivera and the Tigers — who will return eight starters next year — is bright.
“If we can build on what we did this year, it’s only going to lead to some special things in the future,” Pool said. ”(Rivera) is a great kid, and his IQ for the game is way above his age-group level. His strive to get better is one of his greatest strengths.”
But whatever the future holds for Rivera, the main foundation for his success was laid back in those days as a fifth-grader, playing in scrimmages against his older brother’s Tigers.
“It was a challenge getting knocked down a lot, but it teaches you how to adapt to your environment and play against older players,” Rivera said. “It was like I had 23 older brothers. I took pieces of their games and put it into mine, and it’s always stuck with me.”