5
Dec

Mike Magee takes long road to MLS summit as MVP

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – MLS executive vice president, player relations and competition Todd Durbin recalled when he first met Mike Magee 10 years ago. Magee joined the league as a promising U.S. youth international, a player brimming with promise and teeming with the skill to fulfill it. His presence on the stage to accept his first MLS MVP award ensured that point had finally arrived.

Magee traveled a long road to fulfill his potential and produce the sort of season (32 games, 21 goals, four assists) worth of this award. He functioned in the shadows behind brighter stars. He revealed his class in fits and starts without pulling everything together. He survived the doubts created by a knee injury seven years ago to commence his ascent toward the top of the league.

 

“Coming back from that was a lot harder than I thought,” Magee said. “The rehab took a big toll mentally and physically. I had set such a high standard for myself. I tried playing for a long time, but I realized my body wasn’t allowing me to do what I wanted to do. There were some dark times. Waking up, I couldn’t think of anything else I’d rather do. I just stuck with it. Obviously, it’s paying off.”

Magee emerged as a key figure for LA Galaxy over the past few seasons and played a considerable role in the club’s titles in 2011 and 2012. He filled any gap in Bruce Arena’s lineup and provided the flexibility to tailor the team to fit the task on the day. His contributions often went overlooked in a team with David Beckham, Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane, but they were essential to the Galaxy’s success.

His complementary role with the Galaxy transformed into a star turn when he returned to his native Chicago in a high-profile swap for the rights to Robbie Rogers back in May. It took less than a day to figure out how much his professional life had changed. He planned to ask Fire coach Frank Klopas about playing forward more regularly after featuring mostly in the wide areas with the Galaxy. Klopas didn’t give him the chance: the ex-Fire boss asked him where he wanted to play during his first training session with the team.

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It proved a wise decision for both club and player. Magee continued to exploit the gaps he located with the Galaxy and polished off the service provided by Dilly Duka, Joel Lindpere and Patrick Nyarko. He grasped the opportunity with both hands on and off the field. And his exploits proved impressive enough to hold off former Galaxy teammate Keane and Montreal striker Marco Di Vaio for his first major honor.

“From the time I got there until now, it’s been absolutely amazing,” Magee said. “I think I’ve had a lot more seasons where there have been more ups and downs, but this year, it just seemed like it kept getting better from a soccer standpoint and a life standpoint.”

Magee hopes the progress will continue into next season. He cherishes the opportunity to play in front of his family and his friends. He harbors hopes of transitioning into the U.S. national team setup (Jurgen Klinsmann hasn’t made contact yet, he said). He wants to help the Fire return to the playoffs under new boss Frank Yallop.

There is plenty still left to do, but the discussions about his ability to meet his potential are done and dusted. The trophy now in his hands proves it.

(Images: US Presswire)

24
Oct

Playoff picture still murky as MLS season comes to a close

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(Image courtesy of USA Today)

By Kyle McCarthy

Leave it to the final weekend of the MLS season to sum up the entire campaign in a nutshell. In this parity-fueled league with little genuine separation between the teams, a compressed table rife with uncertainty serves as a fitting conclusion to eight months of toil.

Small margins in both conferences leave the composition of the playoff field in a state of flux. Most of the playoff berths — all five in the Western Conference, plus two more in the East — are decided, but five teams remain in the mix for the last three berths. Throw in the completely unhinged seeds — no team is locked into a given seed heading into this weekend — and there is plenty of reason to keep a close eye on results this weekend.

If the playoffs started on Thursday:

Eastern Conference
(1) New York
(2) Sporting Kansas City
(3) Montréal
(4) Chicago
(5) New England

Western Conference
(1) Real Salt Lake
(2) Portland
(3) LA Galaxy
(4) Seattle
(5) Colorado

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7
Oct

MLS playoff picture still murky with three matches to play

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The New York Red Bulls are the only team in the MLS playoffs. (Getty Images)

Leave it to a typically wacky October weekend to further muddle the MLS playoff picture. What we know is this: New York is in the playoffs. Several other teams are in the mix. The rest? It’s all up for grabs heading into the final three matches of the season.

New York, Sporting Kansas City in the race for top spot in the East

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Houston’s victory over Montréal on Friday night increased the chances that either the Red Bulls or Sporting will finish atop the East. New York either dropped a pair of points or gained one over the weekend, depending on your take on the wild conclusion to the 2-2 draw with New England. Sporting holds a game in hand, but it will use it against the Dynamo on Wednesday night.

At this stage, the Red Bulls will probably finish in the top spot with a pair of victories in their final two outings. Sporting possesses a decent chance of overhauling them if it vanquishes its playoff nemesis in midweek. Houston and Montréal (even with a game in hand) must rack up victories and search for missteps in order to push their way to the summit. Both teams would likely settle for a top-three spot – and the direct berth into the Eastern Conference semifinals – at this stage.

Race for final three East places favors Houston, Montréal — and one other

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The two combatants at BBVA Compass Stadium on Friday night finished the weekend feeling relatively comfortable about their playoff futures. The remaining four challengers likely face an almighty scrap for one berth, barring some series of missteps by the Dynamo or the Impact somewhere along the way.

Philadelphia enjoys the inside track at the moment after Kléberson (yes, that Kléberson) rescued the points against Toronto FC on Saturday. Chicago faces a pair of winnable games over the next fortnight (at FC Dallas, home to Toronto FC) to bolster its own playoff chances. New England probably needs a point in Montréal to revive its hopes ahead of a season-ending home-and-home with Columbus. Brian Bliss’ side must win its remaining two games against the Revolution and pray for carnage in order to snatch the fifth spot.

Seattle still on track for Supporters’ Shield, Western Conference top seed

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Sigi Schmid’s outfit suffered a rather humbling 5-1 defeat at Colorado on Saturday, but that setback will not harm the Sounders’ chances of claiming top spot and securing the Supporters’ Shield. Seattle currently holds two matches in hand on Real Salt Lake – including Wednesday’s Cascadia tilt with Vancouver – and one on third-place Portland. If the Rave Green take care of business (a point at Portland on Oct. 13 would help considerably), then the top seed beckons.

RSL likely must win its remaining two matches (at Portland, home to Chivas USA) to keep its Supporters’ Shield hopes alive. Portland still harbors realistic dreams of vaulting both teams given the looming head-to-head matchups and Seattle’s difficult final day test against LA Galaxy.

Colorado, LA Galaxy take big steps with weekend thrashings

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It will take some doing for the Galaxy and the Rapids to slip out of the postseason reckoning after their respective victories over the weekend. Colorado, in particular, created some breathing room with that trouncing of Seattle to ease any lingering nerves about the season-ending home-and-home with Vancouver. Both teams will hope Portland, Real Salt Lake or Seattle veer off course along the way to increase their hopes of a top-three place.

Martin Rennie’s side – fresh off the frenetic 2-2 draw with Portland on Sunday – must prolong Seattle’s misery and then snatch six points from the final two games against the Rapids to mount a belated postseason charge. FC Dallas and San Jose face a similar brief to survive: win or else.

3
May

MLS ready to welcome back ex-USA star Robbie Rogers

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By FOXSoccer.com

Robbie Rogers is a man in high demand.

Rogers, who earned 18 caps for the United States men’s national team, announced his retirement from soccer after officially coming out gay in February. Earlier in the week, Rogers trained with the Los Angeles Galaxy prompting many to speculate a possible comeback to Major League Soccer this season.

During an event at Columbus Crew stadium on Thursday, Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber expressed his desire to see Rogers back in MLS.

“We’d love to see Robbie back in the league — regardless of announcement he made in February,” said Garber. “He has to figure out his future, and I hope that future is going to be in Major League Soccer.”

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31
Oct

Five things to watch: Chicago Fire vs. Houston Dynamo

By Kyle McCarthy

MLS starts the journey toward MLS Cup next month Wednesday night when Houston visits Chicago in a Knockout Round match. Here are a few points to watch ahead of the one-off game at Toyota Park:

1. Where will Chris Rolfe find his space?: Rolfe loves to get turned and run at opposing defenses on the counter and operate between the lines when the Fire has possession. He will find Ricardo Clark and Adam Moffat in his usual operating spaces. He may have to push into a more advanced role to find the necessary room to roam.

2. Picking up the slack: Chicago has struggled in the past month or so when Rolfe isn’t actively influencing the game. If he isn’t causing trouble Wednesday night, the onus falls on Alvaro Fernandez and Patrick Nyarko to provide plenty of service to Sherjill MacDonald from midfield.

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