MONTREAL - The Montreal Impact have made former Inter Milan defender Nelson Rivas their first player under contract for the jump to Major League Soccer.
The 28-year-old Colombian joined Inter from River Plate in 2007 on a 7.5-million euros (C$10.5 million) transfer. He made 28 appearances for the Serie A side, helping the club to two Italian league titles.
He and Inter mutually agreed to end his contract on Aug. 31. He signed for two years plus an option year with Montreal.
Rivas was loaned to Italian club Livorno in 2009-10 and spent time on loan to Dnipro of Ukraine this year. His last game for Inter was Jan. 12 against Genoa in Italian Cup play.
Rivas said some European clubs showed interest in him, but he was lured to the Impact by the chance to be a key player on a new club.
"I talked to some compatriots about the league," Rivas said through a translator. "I know it's very physical and competitive and that it's a league that is becoming more important around the world."
Coach Jesse Marsch he was looking for a physical central defender. He said opposing players don't like to play against Rivas.
Sporting director Nick De Santis said Rivas was recommended by a contact in Europe and he had to move quickly to sign him.
Salary details were not announced. However, a team spokesman said he will not be a designated player, or one who is allowed to earn more than the league's salary cap for an individual player.
Montreal is set to join Major League Soccer in 2012, becoming the third Canadian team in the league after Toronto FC and the Vancouver Whitecaps.
The Impact also hired former Seattle Sounder Preston Burpo as goalkeepers coach, bumping Youssef Dahha to coaching the keepers of the team's under-21 development squad.