Sounders FC Defender Familiar With Expansion Role

Despite the similarity to his previous stop with the San Jose Earthquakes, James Riley enters the 2009 season with a renewed optimism. November 26, 2008, was like déjà vu for Sounders FC defender James Riley. That’s when he learned he would join an expansion team for the second straight season.

But despite the similarity to his previous stop with the San Jose Earthquakes, Riley enters the 2009 season with a renewed optimism while joining a team he says is further along than the Earthquakes in their inaugural season.

“It was exciting going to California. They were under the gun a little bit because they didn’t have as much time as Seattle to get ready,” said Riley, 26, who played collegiately with Wake Forest. “Just from being here the first three or four days, it’s been world class – like nothing I’ve ever experienced in the league.”

Although he’s been down the expansion road before, Riley isn’t soured by the change of scenery, but rather embraces the chance to feel wanted by another franchise.

“I was told I was going to be protected. Chris (Henderson) called me right away. It was definitely something I want to experience,” Riley said. “If a team wants me, I’ll definitely go.”

Riley played several roles in New England’s 3-5-2 in his three years with the Revolution, but established his preference to play left back in an attacking 4-4-2 with San Jose. Seattle is likely to use a similar formation under head coach Sigi Schmid.

In addition to players like Freddie Ljungberg and Kasey Keller, Riley has been impressed by the contributions of the mostly non-roster players from the USL Sounders that are battling for spots in training camp.

“We didn’t really have the nucleus of the (USL) Sounders, which are great players. And the camp is really good,” Riley said. “They have all (the USL Sounders’) best players, then the players from the expansion draft and the SuperDraft and guys that have been called in, so training has been sharp, especially for the first couple of days.”

The Sounders FC are in the midst of their second week of training camp and will continue their 10 am rigors through Friday. On Sunday, another player will be added to the roster through the Sounders Super Search and next week they will head to California to embark on the second leg of training camp through Feb. 14.