CARSON, Calif. – It’s all about opportunity, and James Riley appears to be making the most of his with the LA Galaxy.
The nine-year MLS veteran who has played for six previous clubs (New England, San Jose, Seattle, Chivas USA and D.C. United) has been impressive after being brought in during preseason to add depth and experience at right back, perhaps the one hole on the Galaxy’s roster.
With former MLS Rookie of the Year Sean Franklin lost to D.C. United in the league’s Re-Entry Process, A.J. DeLaGarza has been penciled in as the starter. That leaves a number of candidates to fight it out for a reserve role and even an occasional starting spot at the position, something the 31-year-old Riley said he’s more than ready for.
“I just hope to compete and put in a good shift daily,” he said after training Tuesday. “That’s all you can ask for.”
Riley, fighting for a roster spot with fellow trialist Dan Gargan – interestingly, the duo carpools together to StubHub Center – said he wasn’t particularly worried about future employment after his former club, D.C. United, released him following the 2013 season. After all, he had 211 MLS appearances to his credit and helped United win last year’s U.S. Open Cup.
Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena personally called his agent and said he wanted Riley in camp. The day after the Super Bowl, Riley was on a plane to Los Angeles, and he trained with the Galaxy the next day.
“When the Galaxy calls you don’t really think about it too much,” he said.
“My agent told me to be prepared for my opportunity and take hold of it. That’s been kind of my mind-set. It went on a little bit longer than I thought, but it worked out for the best.
“This is a great challenge, especially at this stage of my career and coming to a club like this. Having an opportunity to come to the Galaxy, and the urgency even for practices … you kind of get that nervous feeling and you want to do well, especially for games.”
Arena has liked what he has seen out of a veteran who could provide a quality option after the Galaxy used inexperienced Oscar Sorto and Hector Jimenez, among others, at full back last year.
“At various points of the season we’ll be playing other defenders, and having a player with his experience is a real plus,” Arena said. “I think last year we had to start some young players in those spots and they perhaps weren’t ready.
“This year we have a guy we would anticipate his experience is going to be a little better-suited to step in and help us right away.”
Riley said he didn’t do any research regarding what he was heading into with the Galaxy, but he had identified a few teams he thought could use some experience and depth on the outside.
He said he couldn’t ask for a better working environment.
“It’s been first class how they’ve handled things and treated me,” he said of the Galaxy. “Bruce is very intelligent; he didn’t want to throw me into a couple of games right away. I know a couple of guys on trial were put into a game right away, but he gave me a week or so to kind of get my feet under me.
“I just like how the ship’s run.”