TORONTO - Once upon a time, Bobby Convey was one of the next big things in American soccer.
It's been a long time, though, since the Northeast Philadelphia native made his professional debut as a 16-year-old with D.C. United in 2000.
Convey turned 30 on May 27. It's a milestone not only for him, but for those of us who've watched his entire career.
(Yes, I'm one of those people - I was at his first game in D.C. back when, and we've crossed paths quite a few times since.)
Convey has been kept from fulfilling his potential by a plethora of injuries, coaching changes and other issues. He was recently traded from Sporting Kansas City to Toronto FC, which makes three different MLS clubs in three years.
Had everything gone right, I think Convey would have been the best soccer player Philadelphia has ever produced. He had pace, touch and vision in his early years that few other Americans could equal.
And he was able to put those skills on display with U.S. national teams for a while. Convey captained the 2003 U.S. Under-20 team to the quarterfinals of that year's FIFA World Championships, and he was on the squad for the 2006 World Cup. He hit the free kick that resulted in the Cristian Zaccardo own goal that gave the U.S.
From 2003 to 2008, Convey made 48 appearances for the national team. His last cap came on February 2, 2008 in a friendly against Mexico in Houston.
The five years since have flown by, haven't they?
I caught up with Convey recently for an exclusive interview. He told me that he hopes his latest stop is one he can stay at for a while.
How has life been in Toronto so far?
It's been great. I can't ask for more. This is one of the best facilities in the league. As a player, you literally can't ask for more - it's a great city to live in, and like I said, our training facility [at Downsview Park] is amazing. Hopefully now I can help the team win some more games.
You've bounced around MLS a little bit over the last few years. Do you think this is a place where you can settle down for a while?
Yeah. I wouldn't really say I've bounced around. My contract was at an end in San Jose [after the 2011 season] and I was going to be free, so they traded me to Sporting [Kansas City].
Sometimes when you go to a new team, it just doesn't work out. I think the style there didn't really suit how I play - I play more in a 4-4-2 than a 4-3-3. But now here, I think it suits me really, really well, and I'm excited to be here.
We just have to create a winning mentality here [in Toronto], and I think I can help with that.
You're in an organization with Ryan Nelsen as a coach and Kevin Payne as a team president. You know both guys very well from your early years with D.C. United, when Nelsen was one of your teammates. What's it like to be back with them, and what's it like to be coached by a former teammate?
It's great. Nelsen was always kind of a coach on the field anyway, so the guys have always respected him. He always worked hard. To see him now as a coach isn't a surprise.
But it's just a respect thing - I know that both of them respect me and want me to be here. And as a friend, you don't want to let them down either. So it adds that extra 10-20 percent, that you don't want to look over and see your coach who's a friend, when we're down 3-0.
It's good to be in a place where I'm wanted, and where my style suits.
I've watched you for a long time, and I still remember very well when you and Nelsen won the MLS Cup together with D.C. United in 2004. How much does that experience on this Toronto team that has so many young players - and knowing also that TFC has never made the playoffs in its history?
When you add a few players, it changes things up a bit and freshens things up for everybody. With the guys here they've already had, there are some pretty good players as well.
I think you can't switch up too many players. Last year, I guess there were 20 or so new players. Hopefully with Ryan now, there will be a continuation with a core of the team, keeping certain guys together.
And this is one of the best places. It's just getting some of the fans back in the seats. This was one of the most intimidating places to play when it first opened up. Now we just have to get that winning mentality. It just takes a bit of time.
Finally, have you been able to swap any stories about life in Philadelphia with your teammate, former Union defender and La Salle product Ryan Richter?
Yeah. I didn't even know that he lives 10 minutes from where I grew up. Everyone here has been extremely open. They've been really helpful, really nice. There are no groups here. Everybody really hangs out together.
It was nice that someone's from where I'm from – and he played for the Battery in Charleston, where I have a house that's five minutes [away]. My wife's from there. We'll go back down there in the offseason, and my mom and dad still live 10 minutes from where his parents live.