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Former UNLV, Las Vegas High soccer star shines in Gold Cup

Until last weekend, El Salvador was mostly known for its volcanoes, coffee beans and political instability. That was before a valiant comeback on the soccer pitch, led by a former Las Vegas High and UNLV star, fell just short in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Gold Cup, which crowns it champion Sunday at sold-out Allegiant Stadium.

After falling behind 3-0 to 2022 World Cup host Qatar, Joaquin Rivas scored two goals in three minutes to pull El Salvador within 3-2. Six minutes later, he had a potential third goal nullified by offsides.

Although Rivas was denied on two more chances in the game’s dying moments that would have tied it, his exploits will not soon be forgotten back home in Central America.

“It was incredible to see a guy who had an impact on our program, that’s really been dedicated to honing his craft, and literally, he’s now a hero in El Salvador,” UNLV men’s soccer coach Rich Ryerson said of the forward born in Santa Ana, El Salvador.

Rivas, who was named the Review-Journal’s Player of the Year in 2009 after scoring 34 goals during his senior season for Las Vegas High’s state championship team, scored 10 during a UNLV career that ended in 2013. The 29-year-old has spent most of his pro career in the second-tier USL, where he presently plays for FC Tulsa.

“He’s been grinding it out as a pro and I couldn’t be more happy for him,” said Ryerson, who was on his way to Alaska for a soccer camp and watched Rivas almost pull out the victory on his laptop. “He’s made a lot of Salvadorians proud; he’s made a lot of people in Las Vegas proud.”

Rivas earlier this summer took part in a UNLV Caravan video celebrating the school’s soccer-playing professionals and spoke of being called up to El Salvador’s national side.

“It’s a feeling you would have to experience yourself to know what it means,” said Rivas, who also scored in El Salvador’s 2-0 Gold Cup victory over Guatemala. “It’s an amazing feeling when a whole country is behind you and you’re playing for pride.”

Around the horn

— Former Bishop Gorman star Joey Gallo appeared for his first Yankees zoom call with a freshly shaven face Friday per a longstanding club rule.

“I literally had just gotten a haircut that day and had the beard trimmed and everything,” the two-time All-Star said about being traded to New York from the Texas Rangers Thursday. “Three hours later they said you got traded; you’re going to New York. And I’m like I guess I’m going to have to shave this.

“So I went home and did it on my own. I should probably have a professional do it at some point. But you know that’s part of the rules when you play in New York and I don’t mind doing it.”

— Gallo’s buddy and Bonanza High grad Kris Bryant will be able to keep his chin whiskers in San Francisco after being traded from the Cubs to the Giants just before Friday’s deadline. But his father, Mike, said it’s premature to predict where the former NL MVP will wind up after becoming a free agent at season’s end.

“We’ll see how he likes San Francisco,” the elder Bryant said. “San Diego would have been ideal, I’m sure. He’ll probably end up at first base later, so I think maybe San Diego will be in the picture later.”

Kris Bryant played college baseball at the University of San Diego. The Padres were said to be shopping their first baseman Eric Hosmer. So perhaps Mike Bryant will have an even shorter distance to travel to watch his son play sooner rather than later.

— The starting time for this year’s National Finals Rodeo performances at the Thomas & Mack Center Dec. 2-11 has been moved up an hour from 6:45 p.m. to 5:45 to accommodate TV and local honky-tonk owners, though only the TV folks were mentioned in the news release.

0:01

A baseball fan named JR was leader in the clubhouse for Tweet of the Day when he posted this message to his account Friday:

“I wore my Cubs jersey today and almost got traded.”

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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