The regular season is still two weeks away, but Bobby Convey has already served his “I’m back” notice.
The veteran winger, who missed much of last season with calf and hamstring injuries, capped an active 75-minute shift with Sporting Kansas City’s first goal in Wednesday night’s 2-0 exhibition win over D. C. United.
“A lot of people think these games are meaningless,” Convey told MLSsoccer.com by phone from Kissimmee, Fla. “And maybe the results don’t mean anything, but this is a time to put an impression in other teams’ minds. “
Even before his 74th-minute strike, which helped lift Sporting to their first Disney Pro Soccer Classic win in five tries, Convey drew plenty of attention for his energetic play all around the pitch. He started on the left wing, but switched sides often with right winger C.J. Sapong and also saw a good deal of action in the middle of the park.
“Obviously, in the formation that we run, we try to keep our shape as much as possible,” Convey said. “But switching up with C.J. seemed to work well. It gives our team a different look. It’s not so much running all over the place. You still have to make sure that when we lose the ball, you get back to your proper position on defense.”
That said, Convey did his fair share of running during the match – and the 29-year-old, who is in his 14th professional season, looked fitter on Wednesday than he did at any point last season, even before the injuries hit.
“I feel great,” he said. “The objective was to play 75 before the game, but if I had to play for 90 minutes, that would have been fine, too.”
Manager Peter Vermes said Convey’s struggles last year, his first with Sporting, were due in part to his fitness not being up to the club’s standards.
“We have a tradition of fitness,” Vermes said. “And if you don’t have that, you have to acquire it to have success in the way we play. Credit to him. He’s even said it: ‘I was nothing last year.’ He came back and he worked his butt off in the offseason.”
And as Convey showed on Wednesday, that work is already paying off.
“What happens now is that he doesn’t have to worry about that aspect, and he can play his game,” Vermes said. “His game is good. I’ve said that all along, and now his game is even more emphasized.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.