James Riley has been a Goat for little more than a week, and he's fully embracing his newest adventure, as unexpected as it might be.
The veteran right back, acquired from the Seattle Sounders through Montreal and Major League Soccer's expansion draft, says he can offer something good to Robin Fraser's project at Chivas USA and is looking forward to the opportunity to do so.
He's just in no rush to get down to Southern California quite yet.
“I'm not too anxious,” Riley told ESPN Los Angeles this week from his Seattle home. “I'm just relaxing after a long season.”
The new one begins in little more than six weeks, with Fraser slated to gather his troops together Jan. 16, and Riley, a seven-year MLS veteran and one of the league's best outside backs, figures to provide a huge boost for a team looking to return to the postseason after two misses.
That's the message Fraser had for Riley, whom Montreal selected in the expansion draft so it could send him (and allocation money) to Chivas for forward Justin Braun and midfielder Gerson Mayen.
“He called me right after the draft,” Riley said. “He said he likes the way I play both sides of the game, he likes the grit, the mentality I've brought over seven years. He wants players who can focus over 90 minutes, and I kind of deciphered that as winning the right moments.
“I break down different aspects, and it's guys able to win duels -- a key tackle, simple positioning, being able to cover teammates, being able to anticipate turnovers and breaks, and that's when we have the ball. It's definitely a thing the team works on together, something you start on preseason day one: winning duels in critical moments.”
That's what the Goats need after mental lapses played a huge part in defensive struggles that derailed their 2011 campaign.
Riley didn't expect to join Chivas USA, but he knew he was headed somewhere. The depth of talent in Seattle's roster meant some very good players, some starters, were going to be exposed in the expansion draft, and the former Wake Forest standout has been through this before.
In 2007, San Jose took him from New England in the expansion draft. Seattle grabbed him the following year. He'd heard there was interest -- that Montreal likely would take him and either keep him or deal him -- but Chivas wasn't one of the teams mentioned.
He watched it all happen via text messages.
“My girlfriend got a text right away: 'Just been picked up by Montreal,' ” Riley said. “Five minutes later: 'And you've just been traded to Chivas.' It happened right away. We literally had sat down for lunch.
“I knew it was a possibility [I'd be leaving Seattle], for sure, but I was just laughing. It was one of those things -- Montreal picked me up, now I've been traded to Chivas. I didn't know if it would stop there or keep going, but it's good to land in place where you're wanted.”
He's going to miss the Sounders, but he's surfing the web for housing in the South Bay. Preparations for the new season will be underway in no time.
“I had three wonderful years here [in Seattle] -- I can't complain,” Riley said. “I enjoyed my time here 100 percent. I feel a little but disappointed I couldn't give the city a championship, an MLS Cup, but it's not for lack of effort. I did my bit for three years, and it wasn't meant to be.
“Now I'm in transition, a new start, which I'm eager to do. I've got a lot of respect for the coaching staff there [at Chivas], especially Robin Fraser and [top assistant] Greg Vanney, who have played in this league and played at the highest level [internationally]. It's a vibrant coaching staff. They've walked the walk, and I think that's really cool.
“I've bookmarked Seattle -- it's a place that's always been special. Now it's time to move on to a different journey down the road.”
HEALTHIER IN K.C.?: Sporting Kansas City coach Peter Vermes says he believes Paulo Nagamura, acquired this week in a trade from Chivas, will be healthier in Kansas than in California. The Brazilian midfielder missed most of this season with injuries, including the last couple of months with a broken foot.
“We’ll bring him back,” Vermes told The Kansas City Star. “It’s the fifth metatarsal in his foot. Guys have that injury all the time. Between our medical and training staff, I have no problem saying he will be stronger here than he was [with Chivas].”
Vermes, with good reason, is happy with the pickup. Nagamura, when healthy, is one of the best defensive midfielders in the league, but he's also comfortable going forward.
“This guy is a two-way player, someone who can play holding midfield or play as a more attacking guy,” Vermes said. “And I love that I didn’t have to go outside the league to get him. He’s already adjusted to MLS.”
ANOTHER MIDFIELDER?: Ecuadoran daily El Universo reports that the Goats have offered Deportivo Quito midfielder Oswaldo Minda a three year deal. Fraser visited Ecuador during last month's South American scouting trip.
“It's a good opportunity for my career and my family, because if it happens, it would be a definitive transfer with a contract for three years, which also assures revenue for Deportivo Quito,” said Minda, whose arrival would probably mean another departure from the Goats' deep, talented midfield group.