Being a rookie is a daunting task. Being a rookie midfielder trying to break into a midfield that includes three current internationals, a Uruguayan playmaker, and a Brazilian left midfielder is a momentous task.
That is what faces New England Revolution rookie midfielder James Riley on a day-in, day-out basis.
"On draft day, when I found out that I was going to New England, I just wanted to come here and contribute in any way I possibly [could]," said Riley. "I knew that this was a strong and deep team and I just wanted to contribute."
And he's not even a true midfielder.
"I have played there before," said Riley. "I have played on the flanks my entire career. At Wake [Forest], I played either right or left back. The players on this team make the transition easy for me."
Riley has transitioned well enough to land a starting role in last weekend's 3-0 victory against Columbus in place of the injured Cassio.
"[Riley] is a soccer player," said Nicol. "He has a good touch and a good soccer brain. He can play anywhere down the right hand side of the field. When we went to see him at Wake Forest, he played on the left side, so he can play there too."
The Colorado Springs native harbors no illusions as to his role on the field, adding that a modicum of help from senior players has helped him to focus his role.
"My first option is to get it forward to [Pat] Noonan and [Taylor] Twellman," said Riley. "Taylor is encouraging me in practice to find him in the box. He does what he does best in making runs and getting behind the defense."
Riley continued the smooth transition off the field. Sharing a local apartment with teammate and fellow Wake Forest alum Michael Parkhurst, Riley has the luxury of a close friend by his side during the first year of his new profession.
"The transition has been smooth," said Riley. "We live together in the same apartment. We play video games together. We warm up together. Just for your confidence, it's nice to have someone near you that you know. We're very honest with each other."
Kyle McCarthy is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.