SAN JOSE, Calif. — When he was a teenager plying his trade for D.C. United, Bobby Convey said he used to hang out at the home of then-teammate Ben Olsen “three or four times a week.”
So when it came time for United to make a midseason coaching change after Curt Onalfo suffered a dreadful 3-12-3 start to the season, Convey wasn’t surprised that his ex-team called upon Olsen, even if the former midfielder had only retired as a player nine months earlier.
“Ben's one of those guys everybody likes, everybody wants to do well, everyone has respect for and everyone will listen to,” Convey told MLSsoccer.com. “It’s difficult to go right from player to coach immediately, but he’s somebody everyone has respect for, so that’s probably why they did it.”
Convey and his current team, the San Jose Earthquakes, travel to DC on Saturday hoping to deal Olsen his seventh loss in 10 league matches since taking over for Onalfo.
But Convey, who was the youngest MLS player ever when he debuted with United as a 16-year-old in 2000, feels some empathy for the fall his former employers have taken. With three matches left, DC are mired in last place on the MLS table and scrambling to avoid establishing a franchise record for fewest points in a season.“For me, DC was a great place,” said Convey, who spent four-and-a-half seasons there before departing to England in the summer of 2004. “There were a lot of great people that helped me out, helped me get to where I wanted to be in my career.
“DC was the team that everybody wanted to emulate,” continued Convey. “Unfortunately, they’ve slid down a little bit now. Hopefully in the offseason they can get some new energy, new excitement around the team and get better.”
One piece of excitement from which DC fans have had to cling this season is the ascension of Andy Najar, who ranks third on MLSsoccer.com’s list of the league’s best players under the age of 24. The Honduran-born attacker made his professional debut in United’s first match of the season, just days after turning 17 – and only a couple of months older than Convey was when he started.
Even though Convey, now 27, has become a homebody who prefers to spend evenings in with his wife, he recalls what it was like to essentially come of age in the company of already fully grown adults, some of whom had kids of their own.
And he worries if Najar has the same of mentors looking out for him now at RFK Stadium.
“If I didn’t go to D.C. United, I probably wouldn’t have gone to England and wouldn’t have been on the national team,” Convey said. “I was given the opportunity to play and was really supported by guys like Ben and Eddie Pope, Jeff Agoos, Marco Etcheverry, Jaime Moreno.
“For [Najar], it’s a little different because there’s not that level of guys there that have so much experience,” added Convey. “If I did something wrong, someone would have a chat with me and tell me what to do. Really, that’s how I became who I am now.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @sjquakes.