Bobby Convey says playing for Sporting Kansas City is what he always wanted.
Of course Convey didn’t know that was the case when he was a visiting player for D.C. United and San Jose and the club formerly known as the Wizards played its home games at Arrowhead Stadium or CommunityAmerica Ballpark.
But now that Sporting KC has the swankiest digs in Major League Soccer, a truly world-class facility with a growing and passionate fanbase who cheered manager Peter Vermes’ squad to the Eastern Conference regular-season crown, Convey finally believes he’s found his soccer Shangri-La.
“This is the atmosphere and environment that I have been waiting for in the U.S.,” Convey said Thursday during an introductory news conference at Livestrong Sporting Park. “Kind of why I had to go to England is because there was nothing like this here in the U.S. Now, to have this here, I can’t wait for the first game and I want to do as well as I possibly can.”
Convey, 28, was acquired Dec. 2 in a trade with San Jose and immediately addresses an area of need for Sporting KC, which has been weak on the left attacking flank in recent seasons.
He played primarily left back in recent seasons after returning from overseas to play for the Earthquakes, but Leawood native Seth Sinovic, who was signed to a four-year contract extension Tuesday, is entrenched in a starting role there. That means Convey is free to return to a more aggressive and natural position.
“I see him more on the attacking side not left back,” Vermes said. “I won’t say never, but he’s been brought here more as a left attacking player.”
The opportunity to join a top-shelf attack with a wealth of fast, physical forwards — such as Kei Kamara, Teal Bunbury and MLS rookie of the year C.J. Sapong — only made Sporting KC that much more perfect as a destination for Convey.
“Left wing is where I predominantly played my entire career,” he said. “In San Jose, it was a matter of injuries that I had to play there and I’ve played there for the national team obviously as well. But I’ve played left midfield my whole life and that’s where I prefer to play.”
Convey, who has recorded 11 goals with 30 assists in 164 career MLS appearances, became the youngest player ever to sign with MLS in 2000 when D.C. United drafted him at age 16, but the slender left-footed Philadelphia native didn’t rise to meet those lofty expectations, managing only eight goals and 16 assists in parts of five seasons.
He spent the next five seasons with Reading FC, helping that club win the Football League Championship for the first time in 2005-06 and earn a promotion to the English Premier League.
But Convey also battled a knee injury that nearly forced him to retire before returning to the United States, where he was selected as the MLS Comeback Player of the Year in 2010 and has been selected for the MLS All-Star team the last two seasons.
The hope is he can be a missing ingredient to creating more goals as Vermes believes that Convey’s left foot — one of the top for serving crosses in the league — is bound to make Sporting KC’s high-pressure 4-3-3 attack even stronger.
Meanwhile, Convey hopes he’s found a relatively permanent home where he can finish his career.
“This is like a kid in a candy shop here,” Convey said. “I don’t plan on moving anymore. Why would I want to go anywhere else when this is one of the best environments in MLS to play in? It’s closer to my family on the East Coast, so I am happy to be here and don’t see any reason I’d ever want to leave.
“You can look around here and this is just what it was like when I played in England. This place is pretty amazing, considering when I played back in the day when it was the Wizards to what it is now. It’s an unbelievable transition and I’m excited to be here.”