CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy’s James Riley already has nine MLS seasons to his credit, but he still gets what he called “good butterflies.”
He had plenty of them Friday, the day before Saturday’s MLS regular season opener against Real Salt Lake, a 1-0 loss in front of 25,634 at StubHub Center. The 31-year-old defender was told he would start at left back in place of Todd Dunivant, who has been bothered much of training camp with a hamstring injury, and went the full 90 minutes in what turned out to be a frustrating loss.
His appearance Saturday marked quite a turn of events for a veteran who has played for six previous clubs and was without a team when he was released by D.C. United following the 2013 season.
“It’s pretty wild … that’s how it works,” Riley admitted. “I’ve always had the mind-set to kind of prepare for the opportunity. You build your own luck.
“This offseason I really did that.”
Riley said he went to his mother’s house in Colorado Springs, Colo., following his release by D.C. United, “got some good, home-cooked meals” and worked out diligently for at least four hours a day.
When the Galaxy called and asked him if he would be interested in coming to training camp, Riley didn’t take long to make up his mind. The Galaxy became so impressed with his preseason play they signed him on March 4.
And there he was in the starting lineup Saturday and playing well, to say the least.
“He’s a veteran player that brings quality experience; you saw that tonight,” said fellow defender A.J. DeLaGarza, who first met Riley when he took a recruiting visit to Wake Forest when DeLaGarza was a senior at Henry E. Lackey High School in Indian Head, Md. “He’s good for us.”
Added Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena, “He’s a good player; he’s going to be a valuable member of our team.”
Riley can’t be blamed if he still finds all of this hard to believe. But he said he never let himself get discouraged about what once appeared to be an unsettled future.
“I really committed myself to it knowing I’d get an opportunity whether a deal would be signed before I came in (to camp) or I’d have to go to a team and earn it,” he said. “That kind of created a sense of urgency.
“I love the game so much. I kind of didn’t want to fade away and not be able to play anymore.”
No chance of that happening now.
“It was tough to sleep last night,” he said. “I was watching the kickoffs of the earlier games and tried to not get over-excited too early.
“But walking out here before the game … I was buzzing all day. It was fantastic.”