CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy have found depth at outside back with James Riley, and he could be in the starting XI on opening day.
The 10th-year veteran has won a job during an impressive preseason trial, head coach Bruce Arena said, and if Todd Dunivant isn't ready to go by the March 8 MLS opener against Real Salt Lake, he appears the likely fill-in.
“He's made a good impression on us, and I think it's safe to say we're going to keep him,” Arena told reporters following training on Tuesday morning at StubHub Center. “He's a veteran player, obviously very experienced, can play left side, right side. I think he'll be a valuable player for us during the season.”
The Galaxy haven't announced the move, but Riley, 31, said he “put pen to paper” Tuesday morning.
“[I'm] ecstatic, honestly,” said Riley, who played in Southern California two years ago with Chivas USA and spent last season with D.C. United. “I came with that goal in mind ... jumped at the opportunity to come in on trial and fully earn it and gain the trust and respect of the guys. I looked at it as a challenge and [I was] very prepared to step into this type of situation.
“This organization is top class. They've treated me that way since day one. So I'm very happy and fortunate.”
Riley, who started his career with New England and also played in San Jose and Seattle, was one of three trialists Arena brought in to compete for spots at right back, where the Galaxy had little depth behind A.J. DeLaGarza. Riley also played at left back during preseason games as Dunivant nursed a hamstring injury, and that versatility confirmed his value.
Dunivant returned to training Tuesday, and Arena said he “has a way to go.” The veteran left back said he was “trying to get ready as soon as possible” and that “we'll see how it goes, [but] I think it's hard to say at this point” that he'll be available by March 8.
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Riley says his job is “to fill in and earn it every day.”
“I think that's Bruce's goal, to have people who can compete in different positions,” he said. “And when people have to go away on national team duty or get injured and go through the ups and downs of the season, you have the kind of people who can step in and keep the standard high. That's my role, and I'll take it and I'll grasp it and take full control of it.”
Arena said the Galaxy would like to keep fellow trialist Dan Gargan, 31, another 10th-year veteran competing at right back. Gargan has dealt with a few minor injuries during preseason, and LA want “to make sure his fitness is good.”
“He's a player we'd like to have,” Arena said, “it's just a question of whether we can make it work with the [salary] cap and all.”