Bobby Convey

Some interesting names to discuss as Toronto FC declines contract options on several notable veterans

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Toronto FC will be one of the more interesting teams to watch throughout the MLS off-season. (What little of it there is – MLS Cup is this weekend, but we can expect teams to be back into preseason camp by mid-January.) Even before the always-ambitious club reveals its DP dandy, presumably being chased at this very moment, according ot the reports of evocative names we keep reading, the “interesting” is already taking place.

Toronto FC’s list of players whose options were declined includes some names that aren’t necessarily shocking – but would have been at another time.

The list includes former US international Bobby Convey, strikers Danny Koevermans, Robert Earnshaw and Justin Braun and goalkeeper Stefan Frei.

Convey (pictured above), of course, continues to be one of the real head-scratchers of domestic soccer. The guy had so very much potential as he signed at an early age, then moved his promising career to England. After initial success, something went wrong there. Then something kept going wrong, whether through attitude or performance decline or whatever, as he sent from San Jose to Kansas City to Toronto. And now to … well, who knows?

Koevermans was hitting goals at a prolific rate when he initially arrived into BMO, but a big injury last year turned into a long rehab this year, and his 2013 campaign never achieved liftoff. At age 35, he’s probably done.

Stefan Frei was among the league’s top ‘keepers from 2009 to 2011, the unquestioned  starter during that time around BMO Field. But his is a cautionary tale of how injurious a serious injury or two can be to a career. He never regained his started spot after season ending surgery very early in 2012. And now he’s a “former TFC” man.

Braun is a big, fairly fast and hard-trying striker who just cannot seem to find the right place. If he could improve technically just a bit, he would easily find a home. As it is, the once-promising American will soon be on his fifth MLS team in five years … if someone bites this time, that is.

And finally there is Earnshaw, one of the real surprise stories of MLS in March and into April. But injuries and general Toronto FC-ness caught up with the Welsh striker, who faded right along with the team.

D.C. United and Toronto FC draw; of course they do

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If you added up all the points collected this year by Toronto FC and D.C. United, two clubs that have had any business thinking “playoffs” for weeks now, it still would not be enough to make the post-season. Such has been the struggle to collect points, perhaps the match from RFK Stadium tonight was an inevitable point-splitter.

The match ended in a 1-1 draw. Too bad for D.C. United, which wasted Dwayne De Rosario’s spectacular, early goal.

And shame for TFC, which wasted the rarest of animals these days, a Bobby Convey goal.

A win would have provided some brief joy for one of these two sides, both with “Pardon our dust: Under Construction” signs now on the door.

Only other thing to say about this one: TFC center back Doneil Henry, a wonderfully promising 20-year-old Canadian, was commanding along the visitors’ back line. His play was one of the difference, and a stark contrast to the error by Dejan Jackovic, D.C. United’s veteran center back.

When your most experience defender tries to get cute with a backheel clearance, as he did just before TFC’s goal, well … you have D.C. United.

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Meanwhile, in MLS … Remember when Bobby Convey played for Sporting Kansas City?

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While David Beckham’s announcement continues to be the big fire sucking all the air from our sport’s collective room, the rest of the soccer world does keep spinning.

Just ask Bobby Convey, the once-rising star of U.S. Soccer, but a man who now finds himself on a third team in 18 months.

Sporting Kansas City traded the little used winger today to Toronto for, essentially, a third-round draft pick. (Sporting KC gets a first-round pick of the 2014 supplemental draft.)

No matter how you describe the exchange, it’s a pittance for what we all thought this guy would be worth. At age 29, Convey should be in the prime of his career, still young enough to do, but now old enough to know.

Remember, there seemed to be so much promise in the young winger (who could also perform as an attack-minded left back) during the 2006 World Cup, when he played in all three first-round matches in Germany.

But his career began a slow descent. He never quite seemed the same after an October 2006 injury while still with Reading.

Convey had tumbled down the national team order by 2009, when he signed on with the San Jose Earthquakes.  But that turned sour after a while, which led to a move into Kansas City in December of 2011.

Convey never made an impact at Sporting Park. Not even close, really. Over a season and change for Peter Vermes team, Convey had a goal and two assists.

Major League Soccer team previews: SPORTING KANSAS CITY

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Each day from now until the beginning of Major League Soccer’s 18th season, we will preview one Eastern Conference team and one from the West. First kick is March 2.

No. 2 in the East is Sporting Kansas City:

Significant additions and subtractions: No, Kei Kamara and Roger Espinoza aren’t the biggest names ever to use MLS as a springboard to something bigger. But good heavens, it will be so very difficult to replace these two around Sporting Park. Probably more so than many casual MLS fans believe. SKC fans may have a better understanding of their fierce dedication to the serious work involved in Peter Vermes’ demanding, high pressure ways. (Which is why they are both playing in the world’s top league now, the English Premier League.

Julio Cesar is also gone, but Paulo Nagamura probably has a good hold on that spot.

The big additions started with DP striker Claudio Bieler, who didn’t have a fantastic preseason. Vermes says not to worry.

Not long after, the team added talented two-way midfielder Benny Feilhaber in a trade with New England.

Ike Opara, newly acquired from San Jose and probably in need of a career reboot, will provide center back depth.

Strengths: If there is a better all-around back line in MLS, right, left and center, someone will need to show me. Chance Myers, Matt Besler, Aurelien Collin and Seth Sinovic are all among the top seven in ProSoccerTalk’s rankings at their position. (Besler, Myers and Sinovic are all top four.) Behind them, goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen is No. 1 in our goalkeeper rankings. So, yeah, there’s a lot of “strong” in all that.

Feilhaber cannot replace Espinoza’s midfield industry or tackling, but the 2010 U.S. World Cup veteran is a superior passer and finisher.

Pressure points: SKC has looked unstoppable, if just a little short of striking power, over the last season and a half of league matches. But the playoffs have proven far more problematic; Vermes’ men fell to Houston in each of the last two years.

Speaking of missing some magic near goal, fans around Sporting Park are still trying to figure out how more than one of those chances didn’t go in as Houston clinched the home-and-away series last fall.

Bieler, who scored reliably in previous club stops in Argentina and Ecuador, needs to duplicate that proficiency. He could be the proverbial “final piece” for a club that’s stacked and packed in goal, in defense and in midfield and not bad out on the wing. (Better on the wing if Zusi is out there, even if it’s not his best spot.)

The schedule will be packed unlike it has been ever before for SKC, with CONCACAF Champions League to deal with, plus the title defense in the U.S. Open Cup.

Bobby Convey? We’ll see. He sure needs to find the next gear.

source: Getty Images

Difference maker: There’s reason to believe Graham Zusi’s career arc remains on the rise. He has seven assists two years ago and then 15 last year. If he goes any higher, Zusi could be flirting with records. His technical ability, fitness, desire and vision through the midfield are all above average. His set-piece delivery is well above average. Zusi may not be Major League Soccer’s best at any one thing, but he’s so well-rounded and so good at a lot of things, it’s no wonder he’s now a U.S. national team regular.

Potential breakout player: Can we call Feilhaber a “breakout” player? U.S. fans know so much about him already, and plenty believe he should be a larger part of Jurgen Klinsmann’s plan with the national team. But for whatever reason, chemistry issues most likely, he sometimes has trouble assimilating. Presumably, Feilhaber understands that fresh chances won’t keep coming forever.

Bottom line: Vermes’ team took a little step back with Espinoza’s move to Wigan and Kamara’s loan to Norwich City (which could easily become an outright  purchase given his early success with the Canaries). But Bieler and Feilhaber are the equalizers in terms of maintaining the collective level of talent at Sporting Park. The Eastern Conference champs could defend their title if the finishing improves. It’s really that simple.

(MORE: full roster of ProSoccerTalk’s Major League Soccer previews and predictions)

Sporting Kansas City vs. Real Salt Lake thoughts: How important can Bobby Convey be?

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Bobby Convey made his first major contribution to Sporting Kansas City last weekend, providing the assist on Kei Kamara’s winning goal against LA Galaxy. When Western Conference-leading Real Salt Lake visits Livestrong Park this weekend, Convey’s wide play and service could again be influential, if we can read anything from how the two teams play.

Thankfully, as we try to do that, we’re dealing with two of the more predictable sides in Major League Soccer. Peter Vermes is going to toss out three attackers and three midfielders, with Graham Zusi playing midfield in advance of Roger Espinoza and Julio César. Jason Kreis always plays two forwards on top of a four-midfielder diamond – Kyle Beckerman at the base, and (when healthy) Javier Morales at the tip.

For RSL, their formation makes width is a constant issue. Whether it’s Will Johnson, Ned Grabavoy, or Sebastián Velásquez starting between Beckerman and Morales, Kreis eschews a traditional flank players, meaningsomeone like Chance Myers can do some damage as he gets forward from KC’s right fullback position to combine with Kei Karama. I’m sure that’s a comforting thought for Chris Wingert.

If RSL maintains enough pressure on Sporting, Myers’ chances to get forward could be managed. On KC’s left, however, Sporting’s most effective wide player, Convey, is already forward.

While I keep mentioning how Convey is probably out of place as a left-sided attacker in Vermes’s 4-3-3, on Saturday, it can be used to Kansas City’s advantage. With Sporting likely to have their hands full through the midfield (out-numbered four against three in the middle of the park), Convey can serve as a needed relief valve. If KC plays him as more of a left midfielder – a natural role for Convey – they can exploit the space on their left and use their best crosser to target C.J. Sapong and Kei Kamara.

It should go without saying that RSL isn’t helpless in this battle. Don’t put it past Will Johnson to do yeoman’s work to pressure Convey. And then there’s PST (and emerging MLS community) favorite Tony Beltran at right back, who could be given the freedom to come forward and mark Convey should the KC wingman’s crosses present a significant problem.

But there are costs: Johnson’s help mitigates RSL’s advantage in the middle, while Beltran’s marking provides space for Kamara and Graham Zusi to exploit.

Every game has these little tactical conflicts, but on Saturday, the match ups are particularly in interesting. Where teams often have to pick and choose their battles, Jason Kreis may be willing to take his chances with Convey rather than open up space for one of KC’s more dangerous players. If he does, Kreis will be giving Convey a chance to make his second big contribution.