For three years, James Riley was an ironman for Sounders FC. After coming to Seattle in the 2008 MLS Expansion Draft, Riley manned the right back position in 83 out of the club’s 94 regular season MLS matches from 2009-2011.
In the two years since he left in the 2011 expansion draft to the Montreal Impact before a trade to Chivas USA and then to D.C. United, Riley has proven to be even more of an ironman in the Seattle community. He is far from the first player to feel a special tie to Seattle even after moving on to other teams, but Riley has taken that connection to another level with the James Riley 7-a-side Youth Soccer Tournament, benefitting the Renton/Skyway Boys & Girls Club.
“There are such great memories. It’s fantastic to be able to come back to a city that gave so much for me personally and it’s great to continue to help the Renton/Skyway Boys and Girls Club,” Riley said.
The 30-year-old defender has been active in the communities of every team he has played with and works with Special Olympics and United for D.C. with his newest club. However, he candidly admits that that bond in Seattle was different.
“It’s just a special, special place and to be a part of it … I’ll always cherish that,” he said before meeting Sounders FC at CenturyLink Field last Wednesday. “The page has turned, but it’s fantastic to come back and use soccer as a platform to serve the community and spread a little joy.”
During his three years in Seattle, Riley helped Sounders FC to three straight U.S. Open Cup titles, three straight MLS Cup Playoffs appearances and unprecedented success in the stands, where they set new league records for attendance each season. He was twice named the club’s Humanitarian of the Year for his work throughout the community.
He will be joined by several of his former Sounders FC teammates when he returns to Seattle for the July 21 event at the Magnusson location of Arena Sports. With Kasey Keller, Taylor Graham and several current players scheduled to appear, it will be something of a reunion for Riley, who spoke with fondness when recalling his three years with Sounders FC.
“It’s a wonderful feeling to know that the historic run that we had to kick off the Sounders still holds a special part in those guys’ hearts and mine as well. My three years here were very special all around,” he said. “Nothing will ever compare to that group. There were some great stories to be had and it evolved into so much.”
Riley’s youth tournament is in its fourth year. Open to players ages 9-12, registration runs until July 17. Each team of at least nine players is guaranteed at least three 30-minute games. To register and for more information, click here.