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November 26, 2011 at 12:58 AM

Former Sounder James Riley says goodbye in a statement

riley statement.jpgPhoto credit: Joel Hawksley, The Seattle Times

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Sounders FC lost defender James Riley (pictured, middle) in expansion draft dealings Wednesday. Seattle’s three-year starter at right back was selected by Montreal and immediately traded to Chivas USA.

Fan reaction, from what I’ve seen so far, is mostly somber.

One of the first things I can remember about Riley is that he showed up to the going-away party of my predecessor, Jose Romero, and that seemed like a cool gesture. The fact that he was voted the team’s Humanitarian of the Year the last two seasons for his work in the community is more evidence to his character.

But Riley was more than just a nice guy.

In 2010, he was voted the team’s Defender of the Year and only Kasey Keller had started more games since the franchise’s inception.

Beyond the tangibles and stats there were the other things that you noticed over time when it came to Riley. Like how he was usually the first to support a teammate on the field, whether it was joining in a goal celebration, lobbying for a call from the referee or getting in the face of an opponent after a bad tackle. He was also generally one of the last guys off the practice field and was also a true pro when it came to media duties.

Not hard to see why he’s already missed.

Here’s a statement from the 29-year-old released Friday, which he had hinted was coming:

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“Sadly, it is with a heavy heart that I realize my departure from the Seattle Sounders and this blue-skied city. The overflow of kind messages I have received across all boards over the last few days has been overwhelming. Undoubtedly, this support is even more encouraging and gratifying because it pertains to the totality of my efforts.

I can honestly say, I gave my heart and soul to this city for three extraordinary years. Even more so, I redeemed my days with great vigor and compassion off the field in a community I have grown to love.

I took full advantage of my time here and despite the nature of professional sports, I distinctly chose to integrate into the city. This is why, I think, I have been supported and received so well. I am just a regular guy that has been blessed to make a living doing something I absolutely love. I was engaged, committed, and involved. An extraordinary energy that was continually reciprocated by all my fans and community partners.

I never worried about circumstances out of my control but instead, I concentrated on taking advantage and utilizing the opportunities I was given.

Certainly, I would like to thank everyone involved with my success, which includes all of the SSFC fans and supporters, especially the ECS and Gorilla FC. I would also like to sincerely thank the Seattle Sounders club, front office/support staff, coaches, and trainers. Thank you to my marketing manager Rich Martin. In addition, I would like to thank all of my community partners, Boys and Girls Club, Special Olympics, America Scores, Susan G. Komen, Ronald McDonald House, Children’s Hospital, Gilda’s Club, Union Gospel Mission, Hope Place, Sadie Lynn Rainford, Korean American Coalition, Emerald City Supporters, Gorilla FC and Mars Hill Church.

Most importantly, I would like to thank my teammates. It was an absolute pleasure suiting up with you gentlemen and going into battle these last three seasons together. I have forged bonds, friendships, and memories within this city that will last a life time.

I am eager to turn the next chapter and embrace the future opportunities that lie before me.”

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