As a 13-year-old boy from Colorado Springs, Colo., James Riley sat in the stands to see the Colorado Rapids play in their inaugural MLS match in 1996. In 2009, Riley was a starting fullback for an expansion club in Seattle. To this day, the 11-year MLS veteran looks back on how cool it was to be a part of the special occasion.
“The first win was one of my favorite memories,” Riley told Steve Zakuani on Zakuani’s episode of “Winging it with Zakuani” last month. “From dreaming of playing on the field, and then to have that moment and playing in front of a sellout crowd, was very special.”
Riley, 35, retired from MLS in 2015 after over 250 MLS appearances with the New England Revolution, San Jose Earthquakes, Seattle Sounders, Chivas USA, D.C. United, LA Galaxy and the Rapids. Despite the journeyman career, Riley’s most memorable stint came with the Rave Green from 2009-2011.
“I say my best years were in Seattle,” Riley told Zakuani.” I was more mature and became more of a staple in the lineup. I knew I needed to play consistently and train with that urgency because you knew you were representing Seattle in front of as sold-out stadium.”
With the Sounders, Riley appeared in 84 league matches, helping Seattle reach the postseason and earn the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Trophy in each of his three seasons. He went on to play four more seasons – each with a different club – before working at the MLS league office as the Director of Player Relations for nearly two years.
“I’ve always had an infatuation for the business side of the game,” Riley said. “I had an opportunity to go to the executive corporate side of the league, and it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”
After living a life full of salaries, budgets and contracts in the Big Apple, Riley has returned to the Pacific Northwest. He’s now even closer to the pitch than he was at the league office. Riley is currently working on a youth nutrition project, primarily for young soccer players, and is eager to create an elite, personalized coaching program.
In addition, he joined the club’s robust broadcast team, which already includes former players Kasey Keller, Zach Scott, Marcus Hahnemann and Zakuani.
“I am very excited to be part of the broadcast team,” said Riley, who provided commentary for a pair of S2 home matches last month. “I think Cheney Stadium and the whole setup there is fantastic. I think to see the pipeline through S2 and to the First Team is interesting.”
For the full interview with Riley from Zakuani’s podcast, click HERE.