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.
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)