- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 7, 2009

Bobby Convey always has been a quick learner with an ambitious streak.

He became the youngest player to join Major League Soccer when he donned a D.C. United jersey in 2000 at age 16. He later earned a contract with English club Reading FC, where he spent more than four seasons, including two in the famed Premier League. Now a veteran with top-flight experience, Convey is back in MLS with the San Jose Earthquakes — and he’s still only 25 years old.

“I guess I’ve just been around for a long time and people think I’m a lot older,” said Convey last week before heading to San Jose for preseason training.

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Convey played with United for more than four years before venturing overseas when he was 21. He was the first United player sold to a European club while still under contract.

“I was just growing up when I was at D.C., and it was difficult being the youngest soccer player in the league along with all the difficulties of being a teenager,” Convey said. “Now my life is different, and my priorities have changed.”

In October, the midfielder married a physician’s assistant he met while in the United States for knee surgery.

“It was probably a good thing I came home to have that surgery,” Convey quipped.

It was not always easy playing in England. A knee injury at the World Cup ended Convey’s role as a starter. He broke up with his girlfriend. Steve Coppell, his coach, said in 2007 that Convey “was a little lonely in England.”

“If all things were equal, I wish I had never left D.C.,” Convey said. “At the time, I wanted to experience England and play against the best players in the best stadiums, and an opportunity presented itself. It was good for myself and good for MLS - they got a good transfer fee - but I did miss D.C. United.”

Convey arrived at Reading FC - the club played in the Championship, a division below the Premier League - as the team’s most expensive signing. His second season with Reading turned out to be a historic one for the provincial club 70 miles west of London. The Royals earned a promotion to the top flight for the first time in their history by winning the Championship with a record 106 points.

“I was on the best team ever in English [League] history,” Convey said. “That was the best season of my career. We only lost two games all season out of 46.”

The Royals survived two seasons in the top flight and were then relegated.

“We played really well the first year as the newcomers,” Convey said. “To visit all those great stadiums you see just on TV when you are in America or when you play video games, was great. It was like I was in a real life soccer video game.”

Convey has not ruled out the possibility of going back overseas.

“I’m still young, and anything could happen in a couple of years,” he said.

Convey played in nine games in all competitions at Reading this season. He was released from the club in the January transfer window and was acquired by San Jose, which had first choice on his rights. At San Jose, Convey will play under Frank Yallop, who was an assistant coach at United when Convey first joined the league. Yallop was in England in December and asked Convey to play at San Jose.

“I knew Frank from before, and it all fell into place at the right time,” Convey said.

Convey, a left-footed and left-sided midfielder, was a key player on Bruce Arena’s 2006 World Cup team in Germany and played in all three games. He hopes to get back into the U.S. team program.

“My main priority now is to play for San Jose,” Convey said. “If I do well, I know the national team will always be there for me.”

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