CARSON, Calif. – Chivas USA are just one win away from the club’s first-ever US Open Cup final appearance, but standing in the way of their bid to make franchise history are the three-time defending champion Seattle Sounders.
The Rojiblancos will take on the Sounders on Wednesday at Starfire Sports Complex (10 pm ET, live stream at soundersfc.com), and while Seattle have been invincible to date at Starfire – the Sounders have yet to lose a competitive match there since joining MLS in 2009 – Chivas have excelled on the road this season, notching a 3-1-3 record in MLS play and three victories in Open Cup away from the Home Depot Center.
To help Chivas in their campaign, the club will be able to call upon one player with extensive experience at Starfire, longtime Seattle Sounder James Riley. The right back was a regular in the Sounders back four for three seasons, making more than 90 appearances in all competitions while the club earned three consecutive Open Cup trophies. In fact, Riley was manning the right-back spot for Seattle the last time Chivas reached the Open Cup semifinals in 2009, helping the Sounders to a 3-1 victory.
Since joining the club from Seattle via Montreal in the offseason, Riley has become a mainstay on the right side of the defense for Chivas, making 18 appearances for the club in all competitions. Much like his three years with Seattle, Riley’s intelligent defending and ability going forward have made him invaluable to head coach Robin Fraser.
With his extensive experience of both teams in hand and four Open Cup trophies under his belt – he won his first USOC title with New England in 2007 – Riley believes the small confines of Starfire can benefit the Rojiblancos.
“Hopefully, we’ll get a chance to knock it around on that field, but it plays small," Riley said of the stadium located in Tukwila, Wash. "There will be a lot of duels and a lot of second balls and a lot of chances in that game. It’s almost like a hockey atmosphere where it’s a really, really fast-paced game from minute one to 90 ... you’re getting pressure and you don’t have the space that you want in the midfield so there’s always things that happen. I won’t think we’ll have that loll like we had here [on Saturday vs Vancouver].
Fully aware of the rigors that go into winning an Open Cup, Riley trusts that the Rojiblancos have what it takes to reach the final.
“We know it’s a big opportunity to go into Starfire and play the Sounders," he added. "We couldn’t ask for anything else to be honest. We know that we have to go through the champions to get to the final and that’s a great challenge for us.”
Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.