MLS Spotlight: Red-hot Magee cherishes Chicago homecoming

Magee

By THOMAS FLOYD

Mike Magee hadn’t given much thought to the prospect of a Chicago homecoming. Never had a reason to. But once the idea popped into his head, he couldn’t let it go.

As Robbie Rogers sought a solution that would move his rights from the Chicago Fire to his hometown Los Angeles Galaxy, Magee came across a quote from Rogers that triggered his Windy City nostalgia.

“I think Robbie made a comment saying, ‘I don’t want to live in Chicago,’” Magee recalled. “At that exact moment, I said, ‘Man, I want to live in Chicago so bad.’ So it kind of just clicked.”

Thus Magee volunteered to be the player Los Angeles sent to the Fire in late May for Rogers, who after coming out as gay and suspending his playing career several months earlier was looking for the right environment to cultivate his comeback.

Although Magee said what Rogers is doing is “pretty incredible,” noting that “it takes a unique person to carry that weight,” he doesn’t care about being the answer to a Rogers-related trivia question.

No, after 14 years of being away from his family, of hearing about get-togethers from afar, of talking to his father “a couple times every day” to stay in the loop, Magee is too busy enjoying the chance to raise his 3-year-old daughter in the city he loves.

With all due respect to his time in Florida, New York and Los Angeles, he figures nothing beats home.

“It’s still kind of surreal,” Magee said. “I feel like I haven’t stopped moving since. I’m trying to catch up, and it’s so easy to get my mind off of soccer, and all of those stresses I would have, day in, day out, in New York and L.A. have kind of disappeared.”

Of course, relishing life off the field tends to be easier when matters are good on it. With goals in all seven matches he’s played for Chicago, spanning MLS and U.S. Open Cup play, Magee didn’t wait long to do his hometown proud.

While the 28-year-old’s previous career-high in goals was seven back in his rookie 2003 campaign, he’s already bagged 10 this season to put him in a tie atop the league scoring chart.

“And it’s not just the goals he scores,” Fire coach Frank Klopas said. “It’s what he does off the ball, his ability to help the team on the defensive side of the game, obviously his leadership qualities and stuff, and his ability to work.”

Considering Magee hasn’t lived in Chicago since his youth soccer days, it only seems appropriate he’s found success for the Fire up top — a throwback of sorts for a player typically used on the left flank while winning a pair of MLS Cups for Los Angeles.

When it comes to playing forward, Magee doesn’t try to hide that childlike enthusiasm.

“It’s all I played as a kid and all I ever wanted to play,” Magee said with a laugh. “Midfield is great and all, but it’s a lot of running and I definitely like being closer to goal. Since I got here, I’ve been trying to cherish that and score as many goals as possible so they can’t move me back.”

With every tally, Magee becomes more entrenched in the awards discussion — uncharted territory for the solid but often unspectacular MLS veteran.

His first All-Star selection seems probable. The Golden Boot is within his grasp. And it could be tough to talk MVP without at least bringing Magee’s name up, particularly if he continues to fuel the turnaround for a Fire team that was 2-7-2 before his arrival and is 3-0-1 since.

“Of course I think about it,” Magee said. “When I see things like that, I take it as a compliment. But anyone who kind of chases their stats or starts thinking that far ahead is not doing the right things for themselves and not being great for the team either.”

It’s the type of approach the uncapped Magee also has brought to his U.S. national team prospects. For as much as Magee craves a call-up, his awareness is distant enough that he didn’t realize until last week that he was left off the Americans’ preliminary Gold Cup roster named a month ago.

As Magee conceded, “I wasn’t aware — even up until a couple of days ago, I was waiting for a call that never came.”

So when Magee takes the field, he now does so knowing he still has work to do if he’s going to make his mark internationally.

But that’s just one motivating factor. Given the opportunity to routinely play before a horde of family and old friends at Toyota Park, the Chicago native hardly needs the extra incentive.

“He’s a kid from Chicago,” Klopas said. “He’s someone that obviously cares not only about his performance on the field but about his team and being from here. He does respect the history of the club and makes sure that he goes on the field and plays in a way that can make everyone proud.”

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21 Responses to MLS Spotlight: Red-hot Magee cherishes Chicago homecoming

  1. Dennis says:

    Ever since I saw Magee first play for the Metrostars, I have enjoyed his enthusiasm on the field. It is so much fun to watch a player who is obviously having fun out there. For LA, he matured into the kind of player who plays with a certain intelligence about where and when to show up in good spots with the composure to score goals at important times. I was never sold on him as a great athletic guy, but his hard work and brain have helped him turn into a constant threat to the opposition; those more than compensate for whatever he may lack athletically. His current streak in Chicago shows that he is can be THE guy, rather than just an important gog in the machine. Good luck to him.

  2. RPH says:

    No kidding. Chicago is a great town. Good for him on so many levels.

    • Rector & Carlisle says:

      Great to see what this guy can accomplish when not wasted on tainted marshmallows in Thailand…or roofies in Vegas.

  3. CW in LA says:

    Once again, Galaxy “brain trust”, just an awesome, awesome trade. Thanks a big, fat, humongous gob.

  4. Petedela says:

    As a Galaxy fan I will miss him, but as a human, I’m happy for his success in his hometown.

  5. Charles says:

    The way he is going Rogers will be a footnote for his trade.

  6. Soccerhorn says:

    As a Galaxy fan, reading this article brings up the same waves of nausea I initially felt when I heard about this trade. I loved the idea of Rogers coming to the Galaxy. LOVED it. Right up until I heard that we were dealing away Magee. I mean, has there ever been a bigger fan favorite in LA? Forget about the goal count; Mike Magee was the guy who said “give me the gloves!” two years ago and then proceeded to stonewall “Sideshow Steve” Lenhart and the rest of the Goons. THAT is captain’s armband stuff, not trade-bait stuff. Ugh. I’m reaching for the waste basket again just thinking about this disaster.

    It’s been great watching Rogers miss on his crosses, miss on his shots, and break off his runs early. As a Galaxy season ticket holder, I’m looking forward already to the next Galaxy Town Hall meeting. I’ll be the one standing up and asking Chris Kliein to apologize to me, personally. Ok and Gnarls too. Ugh.

    Is it too soon to start it: HASHTAG WORST GALAXY TRADE EVER.

    • yosi says:

      It could be tied for worst ever. we sent Clint Mathis, Joe franchino and Roy myers for Luis Hernandez that one year. You can’t blame the guy since he volunteered. The real blame is on Bruce Arena who signed a player who last played in league 2 and has fitness issues this late into the season.

    • Gnarls says:

      Hells yeah, Klein owes me a personal apology too. It’s nice to be included in the sob fest.

      You just summed up my feelings exactly. I have nothing to add other than congrats to Magee and Chicago. They came out on top and I wish them the best.

    • PetedeLA says:

      I’m with you, but I’m still holding out hope that Rogers will get it together. The guy seems to have the goods, but he just chokes so much it’s ridiculous. I’m really hoping he is able to put the time in to get his skills under control. I’ve often heard these stories about guys like Donovan and Magee putting in extra shifts to make themselves more dangerous in front of goal. He needs to do this.

      He is the one player where I would say the fact that he is two-footed looks like a curse rather than a boon. I think it saps away the confidence he has in either, because he just doesn’t bring it when it’s really necessary. That chance he had was so easy. I have the feeling that in training he probably hits that every time. He should step away from doing corner kicks with both feet. He should just focus on his shooting and crossing. What good is it to be quick, when he falls apart on his final ball? If he keeps it up people will be calling him jigsaw.

    • limey says:

      HASHTAG? That’s #funny

  7. automata says:

    As a longtime Crew fan, I think you guys just nicely summed up the aggravation that was watching RR all those years. Always rooted for him as he was a class act. He has the speed, crossing ability, and strong shot to be a fantastic player, but was always missing the consistency, final touch, and confidence in front of goal to separate himself from just being an utterly frustrating player to watch. Hopefully he pulls it all together for LA’s, and possibly the USA’s sake.

    • Rich says:

      Some strikers have the ability to take that second or two to compose themselves and calmly put the ball where it needs to go to get it past the keeper. Oduru and RR do not seem to have that ability. As a Fire season ticket holder I am glad Columbus has Oduru and LA has RR….and Chicago wound up with Magee who has made a huge difference in the team. At least our fans now have reason to hope for good things to happen on the pitch and our faith in the Fire to be rewarded. We actually scored 5 goals in the last match. That used to be over a month’s worth of goals!!!

    • Elber Galarga says:

      Speed maybe. Crossing ability, I don’t think so. Guy plays like a chicken with his head cut off.

  8. BrianK says:

    I hope Mike MaGee wins the Golden Boot and MVP and gets a crack at the USMNT. It would be an amazing story.

    Also hope Robbie Rogers gets it going for LA,…he has a lot of gifts for the game and I’m hoping he can put it all together.

  9. barnie says:

    I’ve always enjoyed watching Mike, so impressed when he played in goal for LA. There hasn’t been a Fire player on the field that leads by example like McGee since Peter Nowak!