The move came a bit out of left field for James Riley. But after getting a phone call from Chivas USA head coach Robin Fraser, the right back was sold on joining the Rojiblancos.
“It did come as something of a surprise, to be honest,” Riley told MLSsoccer.com by phone of the trade last month that sent him down the West Coast from Seattle to Los Angeles by way of Montreal. “I didn't know that Chivas was interested. But after talking to Robin, I found out that they have been inquiring about me for awhile. It's always good to feel wanted.”
Chivas’ top priority during the offseason was to acquire players who can help the team stay focused over 90 minutes. Riley, a seven-year veteran, fit the requirement, and the club sent forward Justin Braun and midfielder Gerson Mayen to Montreal in exchange for the Sounders defender, who had been picked up by the Impact in the 2011 Expansion Draft.
Riley, 29, is likely to step in as the starting right back for Chivas next season, replacing 2011 regular Zarek Valentin, who was taken by Montreal in the Expansion Draft.
Riley joins a Rojiblancos defense that boasts experienced defenders Heath Pearce, Michael Umaña and Ante Jazic, as well as goalkeeper Dan Kennedy, who is coming off a career season.
Despite their pedigree, too often last season Chivas succumbed to mistakes in the final third that cost the club vital points and eventually left them out of the playoffs. Renowned for his workman-like attitude and cerebral style of play, Riley believes he can help his new teammates stay concentrated over the course of the match.
“For me, it comes down to winning critical moments, which is what I've been taught since an early age,” said Riley. “Concentration over 90 minutes is just about winning those duels. It just comes down to getting guys to win critical moments both offensively and defensively … and being able to give help to your teammates, which comes with being in good positions.”
Riley arrives at Chivas USA after enjoying near cult-status during his impressive three-year stint with the Sounders. He served as Sigi Schmid's first-choice right back, making 83 starts while helping Seattle to three consecutive US Open Cup titles.
“Obviously, I had a great chapter in Seattle, but there is no reason that I can't have an even greater chapter with Chivas,” said Riley. “Moving can always be good. I did well over my three years [in Seattle] and it's always good to feel wanted, especially by a staff that you highly respect.”
His time in Seattle in the rearview mirror, Riley is keeping tabs on the work that Chivas USA is putting in to bolster their roster. Additions like Ryan Smith and potentially Arturo Alvarez have Riley eager to join Fraser's grand “building project.”
“I'm on the Internet every day, so I see the moves being made,” Riley said. “It definitely looks like [Fraser is] starting to revamp the roster. It's definitely a project, but he seems to know what he wants. He's not just a guy who is just looking to make moves just to make moves; he's won championships in this league, so I have full trust in the coaching staff to make the right decisions and I'll just climb aboard.”
Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.