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Convey Is Off to Good Start

Former United Star Adjusting Well to Playing in England

By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 5, 2004; Page D03

Bobby Convey grew up in Philadelphia, but in many ways, Washington is home. He arrived in 2000 as a scrawny 16-year-old midfielder and ended up spending 4 1/2 seasons with D.C. United before upgrading his career -- and his bank account -- by moving to English club Reading in late July.

But Convey has come back to the District for the next 10 days to train with the U.S. national team, which is preparing for 2006 World Cup qualifiers at El Salvador on Saturday and against Panama next Wednesday at RFK Stadium.

"It's fun to be back," says Bobby Convey, in town on national team duty with Landon Donovan, left, and others. Convey has done well for English club Reading. (Robert A Reeder -- The Washington Post)

_____U.S. National Team_____

World Cup Qualifiers

Saturday: at El Salvador, 9 p.m. (pay-per-view)

Oct. 13: vs. Panama at RFK Stadium, 7:30 (ESPN2)

It's a chance to see his brother Tim, a sophomore defender at Georgetown, and his sister Kelly, a former Penn State star who lives in Northern Virginia.

Convey's return has brought back a stream of mostly fond memories.

"I was here for five years and this was my life," he said following the opening of training camp yesterday at American University. "I was happy I had a chance to play, and I'm not just going to forget about everybody. I saw some guys [Sunday] and I'm sure I'll see some more guys this week. It's fun to be back."

Convey, 21, has played in eight of Reading's 12 matches (with two starts) in the English League Championship, one step below the prestigious Premier League and formerly known as the First Division. He also has appeared in two cup competitions.

Reading, which aggressively built up its lineup in an effort to gain promotion to the Premier League, is off to a 7-3-2 start and sits only one point behind front-runners Wigan and Ipswich Town in the 24-team division.

Convey started two of the club's first three matches, but has been relegated to the bench for the past month. It wasn't that the team was unhappy with his performances; while he was gone with the national team in early September for a pair of qualifiers, Reading found its stride and decided not to tinker with the lineup. In the last four league matches, Convey has played a combined 57 minutes, including 18 against visiting Burnley on Saturday.

"When I first got there, I played a little bit just to get things started," he said. "They wanted me to get used to things and take it easy, but then I went back to the national team and [Reading] has done really well ever since. I can understand it because, if you're winning, what's the point of changing your lineup?"

Convey said he's not disappointed with his playing status and is glad the club has given him time to adjust to a new team, a new league and a new country.

"I'm doing well and the team's doing well," he said. "I went there to start and to be a big part of the team, and they've been really cool with just letting me get used to living in England and doing it the right way. I wasn't just thrown right in, and it's been great so far. It's been a really easy transition for me."

Convey's first two goals for Reading came in a reserve match last week, when he scored twice during a 5-0 victory over MK Dons.

"Bobby is a good player," reserves coach Brian McDermott said on Reading's Web site. "He needs time to settle, but [the two goals] will give him a lift. He's got real quality."

U.S. Coach Bruce Arena thinks Convey's experience in England will pay dividends for the national team before long.

"He hasn't changed much as a player, but the mental and physical challenge of playing in a league like that is good for Bobby," Arena said. "He's got to make that adjustment. It's very predictable that he's been through the kind of transition he's been through. It's not surprising. Hopefully, he begins to recognize what the demands are there and he positions himself to be a regular for many more years to come."

U.S. Notes: Seventeen of the 23 players on the roster participated in a 90-minute workout yesterday. Goalkeeper Tim Howard and defenders Gregg Berhalter and Oguchi Onyewu were expected to arrive from Europe later yesterday. Defender Carlos Bocanegra, forward Brian McBride and midfielder Eddie Lewis are scheduled to join the team from England today. . . . Midfielder-defender Tony Sanneh has a slight hamstring injury, suffered in his MLS game over the weekend, and worked out on the side. . . . The U.S. team is tentatively scheduled to play a closed scrimmage tomorrow against Georgetown.

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