“He came to us from San Jose …”
Thus starts a fan-led song about James Riley sung frequently during Sounders FC matches. It’s also a regular fixture at Sounders public appearances, where Riley established an incredible relationship with Seattle’s fans during his three years with the club.
On Wednesday, Riley was selected by the Montreal Impact in the 2011 expansion draft, then traded to Chivas USA in exchange for Justin Braun and Gerson Mayen, ending his tenure in a place that he had grown to call home in Seattle.
On Friday, he issued the following statement through his marketing representative, Rich Martin:
“Sadly, it is with a heavy heart that I realize my departure from the Seattle Sounders and this blue-skied city. The overflow of kind messages I have received across all boards over the last few days has been overwhelming. Undoubtedly, this support is even more encouraging and gratifying because it pertains to the totality of my efforts.
I can honestly say, I gave my heart and soul to this city for three extraordinary years. Even more so, I redeemed my days with great vigor and compassion off the field in a community I have grown to love.
I took full advantage of my time here and despite the nature of professional sports, I distinctly chose to integrate into the city. This is why, I think, I have been supported and received so well. I am just a regular guy that has been blessed to make a living doing something I absolutely love. I was engaged, committed, and involved. An extraordinary energy that was continually reciprocated by all my fans and community partners.
I never worried about circumstances out of my control but instead, I concentrated on taking advantage and utilizing the opportunities I was given.
Certainly, I would like to thank everyone involved with my success, which includes all of the SSFC fans and supporters, especially the ECS and Gorilla FC. I would also like to sincerely thank the Seattle Sounders club, front office/support staff, coaches, and trainers. Thank you to my marketing manager Rich Martin. In addition, I would like to thank all of my community partners, Boys and Girls Club, Special Olympics, America Scores, Susan G. Komen, Ronald McDonald House, Children's Hospital, Gilda's Club, Union Gospel Mission, Hope Place, Sadie Lynn Rainford, Korean American Coalition, Emerald City Supporters, Gorilla FC and Mars Hill Church.
Most importantly, I would like to thank my teammates. It was an absolute pleasure suiting up with you gentlemen and going into battle these last three seasons together. I have forged bonds, friendships, and memories within this city that will last a life time.
I am eager to turn the next chapter and embrace the future opportunities that lie before me.”
It’s not the first time Riley has changed addresses because of the expansion draft. After playing three seasons with the New England Revolution, he was drafted by the San Jose Earthquakes for their expansion season in 2008. He played one season with them before being selected by the Sounders FC in the 2008 expansion draft. He survived the 2009 expansion draft when the Philadelphia Union selected Sebastien Le Toux, then was protected in the 2010 draft.
“It’s not surprising that James Riley was picked by Montreal,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “He’s been our starting right back for three years and a quality player. We knew it would be a risk to not protect him. He’s a veteran who can step in and help a defense right away.”
Riley was Seattle’s opening night starter at right back and never relinquished the position, making 83 starts out of Seattle’s 94 MLS matches in three seasons.