D.C. United defender James Riley was one of six players who stuck around after training on a pleasant Tuesday morning in the nation’s capital to put in a little extra work.
Riley, a nine-year MLS veteran, joined United via a trade before the season and has started two of the clubs three matches at right back.
Despite United recording two clean sheets in those three matches, Riley’s not pleased with his early-season form. And it’s not just because of the own goal he scored in D.C.’s 2-0 loss against Houston.
“It feels good to get out and play with this club. It’s been great,” Riley said. “But obviously, I feel like my performances have been sub-par, so that’s a challenge to myself. I hold myself to a high standard. I’m the biggest critic of myself. As long as I continue to grow, continue to do the right thing every day meshing with the group, I think in the long run things will be good.”
Riley played for Chivas USA last season before being traded for a draft pick and sided with Seattle, San Jose and New England before that. During his time in the league, he’s logged 17,626 minutes and has assisted 16 goals. United coach Ben Olsen favors him as a back who can get forward when necessary and join the attack.
“I’m glad I have the freedom to do so much running,” Riley said. “I’m always trying to support my right mid which is Nick [DeLeon] and to obviously stay connected with BMac [Brandon McDonald]. It’s a pull between those two and not only committing going forward, but I think everyone likes to combine and get forward and look to get crosses in. And obviously wanting to do due diligence on the defensive side.”
While no one’s expecting Riley to be as dynamic as Andy Najar, who was transferred to RSC Anderlecht before the season, was after his shift to right back, Riley has proven he can play solid defense, contribute when necessary and understands the complexity of the position.
“I think in my old age I’m a bit more mindful of blowing forward,” Riley said. “You want to maintain a balance and be an outlet for the backs and midfielders and be able to connect the game. It’s what I’ve always been known for. I want to continue to do that, be simple, be consistent, be durable and be reliable. Those are the things I’m looking for.”