Mike Magee: “Even if I was a left mid for 10 years, I still thinking I was a forward. So to get an opportunity to do that, I knew I had to score some goals before they moved me back again.” Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports)
(This is a sidebar with the second part of the four-part series, The Three Amigos, which originally was posted on BigAppleSoccer.com on Dec. 5, 2013)
By Michael Lewis
KANSAS City, Mo. — Mike Magee hasn’t gotten that special phone call from U.S. Soccer House or heard a word from U.S. national coach Jurgen Klinsmann.
“No I have not,” he said Thursday evening. “I would like one, though.”
That call would be a call-up to the U.S. national team. Magee has never played for the USA.
And after all, like pitching in baseball, you can never have enough forwards in soccer at the international level, especially sharp-shooting ones.
Perhaps his performance this past Major League Soccer season might turn Klinsmann’s head and have him brought into January camp. Magee certainly turned heads this past season for the Chicago Fire, striking for 21 goals.
In fact, his performance was so scintillating, sparking what was a moribund Fire team and transforming Chicago into playoff contenders. The Fire fell short of the playoffs, but Magee fulfilled his potential and then some as the same person who was taken by the MetroStars in the 2003 MLS SuperDraft.
He was rewarded for his efforts by being named MLS MVP Thursday.
“It’s all still surreal,” Magee said.
It was real for the rest of the league, sometimes really bad. Magee lived a career season in 2013, striking for 21 goals, most of them for his hometown team.
That was pretty remarkable, considering the 29-year-old Magee entered the season with but 36 MLS goals in 10-plus seasons under his belt.
“Getting to play forward was something I wanted. I thought I was a forward all my whole life,” Magee said. “Even if I was a left mid for 10 years I still thinking I was a forward. So to get an opportunity to do that, I knew I had to score some goals before they moved me back again. The first practice, he [former Chicago coach Frank Klopas] asked me where I wanted to play. I said anywhere near the goal and he agreed.
“I didn’t not think I would score 21 goals in a season. Obviously as a young kid I had high hopes. I didn’t realize being 5-9 and 155 lbs. in the MLS would be so difficult. It was worth the wait.”
Magee found himself and the golden scoring touch with Chicago, connecting 15 times.
“It was easy. to be honest,” he said of the on-the-field transition. “Between Dilly [Duka], Patrick [Nyarko} and Joel [Lindpere] … you’ve seen some goals. The amount of tap-ins I had. Literally a guy banked one off me. The transition was amazing.”
The transition was as smooth as one could be.
“I was going home, which is so easy,” Magee said. “I’ve made so many different moves and a lot of transitions that were so difficult going home was easy as it could be.
“The craziest thing all along was that the whole time I wanted to come home. So for it to finally happen it was such a relief. An easy transition was an understatement.”
Magee became the second MVP on the league’s 18-year history to have performed for multiple teams in the same season. He started with the LA Galaxy before he was dealt to the Fire for the rights of midfielder Robbie Rogers in May.
“LA obviously was amazing,” Magee said. “I enjoyed my time there. I’ve got a three-year-old daughter who I wanted to get home to Chicago. I think from the time I got there to now it has been absolutely amazing. I think I’ve had more seasons where I’ve had ups and downs and this year it seemed like it kept getting better from a soccer standpoint and a life standpoint.”
The birth of his daughter, Keira, in 2010, was a turning point.
“It changes everything,” Magee said. “Before you’re a father, you don’t realize that your actions have consequences. If you can get away with certain things and no one is looking over your shoulder, whatever. All of a sudden you have her, and you realize that her every move relies on you and you’ve got to provide a good life for her. I would attribute a lot, maybe everything to my daughter.”
As for the MVP award, the former Red Bull admitted he had a difficult time keeping it a secret, since he knew about it a week prior to Thursday’s announcement.
“I just got a phone call,” Magee said. “It’s crazy. I kept on saying up there that it’s surreal, but it really was. My first phone call was to my dad and I spent the next week wondering if the phone call was real.
“I don’t think I kept it quiet at all. I told everyone,” he added with a laugh. “The next thing I knew everyone knew.”
A writer brought up the possibility of Magee playing for the Republic of Ireland, that his former teammate on the LA Galaxy, Ireland striker Robbie Keane has been pushing Magee.
“I don’t think there is one, to be honest,” he said. “It would be hard to say no playing with Robbie, but I think I’ll wait until the U.S. tells me no.”
So far Mike Magee is telling the USA team and the rest of the world that he deserves a chance, at least in next month’s camp.
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