- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 19, 2005

Bobby Convey will have something to prove when he plays for the American team today in a friendly against Honduras in Albuquerque, N.M.

It has been tough going for the former D.C. United midfielder since his $1.5 million move to English club Reading FC last summer. Convey has made only four starts for Reading, and his last game was an FA Cup appearance in January.

Time on the bench and with the Royals’ reserve team has not deterred Convey, who spent more than four seasons as a starter for United. The 21-year-old sounds more determined than ever to prove he can make it overseas.

“Obviously, I went there to play, and it was something I wanted to do,” Convey said yesterday. “I signed a three-year contract, and I have two more years, so we will see what happens. I made a decision to go and stick it out.”

Convey is accustomed to challenges. In 2000, he became the youngest player to sign with Major League Soccer at age 16. He was set to join Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur in 2003 but saw his hopes dashed when he was refused a work permit.

Two years later, life at Reading is just another exciting step for the Philadelphia native.

“I didn’t go to England to quit,” Convey said. “People only look at it from a soccer standpoint, but I’ve learned a lot about myself. When you are on your own in a different culture, you have time to think about what is more important in your life. This is not just a soccer experience but a life experience.”

Convey has had to adjust to second-division soccer in England.

“It’s a completely different game at Reading,” Convey said. “It’s more about tackling and running as fast as you can at a frantic speed. In MLS, players try and keep the ball more and entertain the fans. The fans over there want to see you running as fast as you can for 90 minutes.”

Convey is determined to fight for a starting role and said he isn’t homesick. He said he is patient, and he knows a good game with the national team today could boost his chances of emerging with the club.

But playing for his country also has a price. When he first arrived at Reading, Convey said he started a number of games, but his chances have dwindled since he returned from national team duty in September.

Convey also hasn’t had a decent break from the game in two years. After the 2003 MLS season ended, Convey played for the U.S. under-20 team and spent time with the Olympic team before rejoining the national team for games against Holland and Poland. After starting the 2004 MLS season with D.C. United, he moved in July to England, where the season runs from August to May.

“It’s a very long season there, and I never got a preseason break,” Convey said.

Convey lives in Windsor, and he keeps in touch with fellow American DaMarcus Beasley, who now plays in Holland. He also watched highlights of United’s MLS championship game in November.

“I was glad to see the team win the title,” Convey said. “It was justification of what that club is all about.”

But don’t think Convey will be running back to MLS. He is selling his house in Fairfax this week.

Convey expects to see time against Honduras today as the team prepares for its March 27 World Cup qualifier at Mexico.

“I spoke to [national team coach] Bruce [Arena] and told him I want to be as much in this team as I can,” Convey said.

Arena has had the team training in Colorado Springs, Colo., in preparation for the thin air of Azteca Stadium in Mexico. University Stadium in Albuquerque is 5,335 feet above sea level and will be a good test for the venue in Mexico City, which is 7,200 feet above sea level.

Today’s game starts at 4 p.m. and will be televised by Fox Soccer Channel.

United notes — Fresh off a midweek 2-1 win in Jamaica over Harbour View, D.C. United plays San Jose today in the Charleston (S.C.) Challenge Cup. The three-game exhibition event, which includes matches against the A-League’s Charleston Battery (Tuesday) and MLS’ Columbus Crew (Friday), has become a preseason staple for United. It will be the last tuneup for the champions, who open the MLS season April2 at Chivas USA in Los Angeles.

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