Competition, depth and versatility. Those are some of the qualities that New York Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke saw in Bobby Convey before bringing him on board.
Hours after landing Convey in a trade with Toronto FC on Friday morning, Petke spoke to reporters on a conference call to explain the reasoning behind acquiring the 30-year-old midfielder. Petke spoke at length about wanting Convey because of the veteran’s ability to push Jonny Steele for the starting left midfield spot during what will be a very busy campaign and even confessed that he inquired about Convey to TFC head coach Ryan Nelsen on one or two occasions during the 2013 regular season.
“We’re very happy with Jonny but the fact of the matter, if you really delve into it, is that Jonny really had no competition last year,” said Petke. “We didn’t have anybody to step up that we could really go to at that position. Fortunately for us, Jonny played as well as he did and also he stayed healthy. It’s obviously something we needed to correct.”
“In preseason, obviously looking for a little competition between them,” added Petke. “We have four competitions next year [and] to think that we could have one player at one position to play, if you include the Open Cup and Champions League, you’re looking at 60-70 games or 50 games, so that’s unrealistic to think one person could play all those games. It’s depth, but we also have two quality players now at that position that could push each other.”
Convey -- who agreed to a a pay cut to join the Red Bulls, sources tell MLSsoccer.com -- was also signed because of the versatility he brings. In addition to left midfield, Convey can be deployed at left back and that holds plenty of importance given that projected incumbent Roy Miller could miss time in the summer because of the World Cup.
“Bobby, very much, I eye him as well as being able to play at the left back position considering the fact that next year I’m going to be demanding out of our outside backs they need to get forward up and down that flank and get into the attack,” said Petke. “I didn’t demand it upon them [this last season] but we need to correct that this year and get them to attack more and Bobby has played the left back position.
“He scored two goals against in the playoffs a couple of years ago from the left back position to knock us out with San Jose. He’s very versatile in that aspect. He’s a fighting player, likes to get into a tackle, and also has quality with the ball at his feet and he’s for sure someone we can use at the left back position as well.”
As good as the move for Convey sounds, questions remain about his attitude. He has burned bridges in the past with the Earthquakes and Sporting Kansas City and integrating him into a locker room with big personalities such as Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill seems like it could present some challenges.
Still, Petke does not anticipate having any real problems with Convey next season.
“I’m not worried about that at all,” said Petke, who was a teammate of Convey at D.C. United during his playing days. “I do remember a little bit of Bobby a couple times as a 16-year-old when I was at D.C. with him and I know who Bobby is truly at heart and I think somebody that is a great person. That’s why I would not have made this trade, first and foremost, if there was an issue in the locker room or disruption.
“He’s someone that’s seeking a new chance on a team that he feels could be successful and he’s someone that would be willing to play in any role that we ask of him.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached by e-mail at Franco8813@gmail.com.