The Sounders FC lost two key members of their 2011 squad on Wednesday when the Montreal Impact announced their selections in the expansion draft.
Defenders James Riley and Tyson Wahl both will be wearing different uniforms in the 2012 season as Riley was selected by the Impact, then traded to Chivas USA, and Seattle traded Wahl to Montreal in exchange for allocation money.
Riley, 29, came to the Sounders in the 2008 expansion draft after spending the 2008 season with the San Jose Earthquakes. Prior to that, he played three seasons with the New England Revolution.
In Seattle, he was known as much for his contributions to the community off the field as he was for his play as the club’s starting right back for the past three seasons. In 2010 and 2011, he was named Sounders FC Humanitarian of the Year for his work with the Boys & Girls Club, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, Special Olympics, America SCORES, the Make-A-Wish Foundation and many more foundations throughout the Puget Sound.
This year, his 7-A-Side Tournament raised over $15,000 for the Renton/Skyway Boys & Girls Club.
“That Humanitarian of the Year is as important as any award you can get as an athlete,” said Sounders FC technical director Chris Henderson. “All the things James has done, I’m sure, will continue wherever he plays. We were lucky to have him around the community and representing the Sounders in such a positive way.”
On the field, he played 84 matches for the Sounders, notching one goal and nine assists. In 2011, he logged career-highs with 29 starts and 2,579 minutes. Additionally, he started five matches in the CONCACAF Champions League and the US Open Cup final victory over the Chicago Fire.
“James was an important player for our club. He’d been through a lot of big games before he came here and while he was here,” Henderson said. “He’s a guy that we’re going to miss seeing around the clubhouse.”
Wahl, 27, also had a career-best season, registering 23 appearances and 1,989 minutes. He scored his first career MLS goal June 26 in a win over the New England Revolution at CenturyLink Field and had a career-high two assists. He made 39 appearances for the Sounders in three seasons after coming to Seattle in the 2008 expansion draft from Kansas City, where he played for three seasons.
“He worked hard every single day in training. He works to get every ounce of his ability out,” said Henderson, who also coached Wahl with the Wizards. “Tyson will help a new franchise in Montreal just like he did here.”
In losing two starting outside backs, the Sounders now have a significant hole to fill in their lineup. Although they used Leo Gonzalez and Zach Scott in those roles in 2011, the club has an aim to make further improvements to those positions before their first match of 2012 – a CONCACAF Champions League meeting with Santos Laguna on March 7 at CenturyLink Field.
“The club always has goals set higher every year and we want to not only match what they did in those roles, but go beyond that,” Henderson said. “Those are really key positions to start our attack and we’re working really hard every day to find the best options within our salary cap.”
Seattle has now lost the maximum of four players in the last three expansion drafts. In 2009, Sebastien Le Toux was selected by the Philadelphia Union and in 2010, the Vancouver Whitecaps selected Sanna Nyassi and Nathan Sturgis, trading them to the Colorado Rapids and Toronto FC, respectively.
Montreal selected three former USL Sounders, including Nyassi, as they added 11 players to their roster on Wednesday. Nyassi will be joined by his former USL teammate Josh Gardner and Brian Ching on the Impact, who also selected Zarek Valentin, Justin Mapp, Bobby Burling, Jeb Brovsky, Collen Warner and Seth Sinovic while trading Riley to Chivas USA for Justin Braun and Gerson Mayen.