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Player Spotlight

MLS MVP Mike Magee Is Ready for His U.S. Call-Up

The 29-year-old attacker shocked Major League Soccer with a 22-goal performance in 2013 that earned him MVP honors. Magee now hopes to get his chance with the U.S. national team.
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
December 31, 2013
1:20 PM
YEARS FROM NOW, when American soccer fans look back on 2013, most will remember it fondly.

The United States national team finally bought into Jurgen Klinsmann’s system and played with swagger en route to winning both the Hexagonal World Cup qualifying tournament and the Gold Cup.

Major League Soccer added Clint Dempsey to its roster of American stars and retained fellow U.S. internationals Landon Donovan, Omar Gonzalez, and Graham Zusi to new long-term deals. The New York Red Bulls finally built a team that could contend and Sporting Kansas City was a worthy MLS Cup Champion.

Despite all of that, one of the most surprising and inspiring American stories came from Mike Magee, a journeyman who went from being a part of the supporting cast on a star-studded Los Angeles Galaxy team to MLS MVP. Traded to his hometown Chicago Fire on May 25 for Robbie Rogers, Magee scored 22 goals in 2013 and nearly lifted a moribund Fire team into the MLS playoffs.

"When I got the call it was extremely humbling," Magee told American Soccer Now, recalling the moment he learned he was MVP. "It was definitely a surprise. I think at that moment I looked up past winners. Once it sunk in, I looked at the all the other players people could have voted for. The finalists were me, Robbie Keane, and Marco De Vaio—that alone is incredible to be in a short list with those two names. That was good enough for me.”

The 29-year-old has been in the league since he was a teenager and never put up offensive numbers like this before. Magee, however, insists that his scoring flurry came as the result of a simple positional change.

“What’s funny is that in my rookie year I was 18 years old and I scored eight goals," he said, adding that he played forward at the time. "It seems like two decades ago.”

“Ever since then I got moved to left midfield. I’m not sure if it’s a good thing or a bad thing, but all along I’ve always considered myself a forward— even if I was playing forward maybe only once a year. I did well with my chances in L.A. when I played up top, but with Robbie and Landon, I was well aware with where I stood and played within the team. So when I played [with the Fire], it was kind of like 10 years coming. I definitely needed to score some goals because I didn’t want to get moved back to the midfield.”

And score goals he did, including 15 after his arrival in Chicago, three of which were game-winners, to go along with four assists. Fans across the league finally started paying attention to Magee; players had noticed his talent long ago.

Landon Donovan has frequently praised Magee, as have others. No player, however, has gone on record as enthusiastically as former Tottenham great and current Galaxy forward Robbie Keane.

During the current MLS off-season, Keane went back to Ireland and gave an interview with The Herald where he lamented the Galaxy's decision to trade Magee to Chicago and was confounded that Magee has never been called to the U.S. national team. He also suggested that Irish national team manager Martin O’Neil and his assistant, Roy Keane, should lobby Magee about playing for Ireland.

"I keep reminding the manager it was stupid to get rid of him because he's after banging in 20 goals or something so that wasn't clever," Keane laughingly told The Herald. "He's probably waiting for that American call-up. How he hasn't got it I don't know. He was a left-winger for us, a very clever footballer. Technically he's very good. He didn't start playing until he was 16. He never played as a kid. If [Martin O'Neill] asked me about him, I certainly would but I'm sure Roy and people would be fully aware of all the players available to them."

When asked about Keane’s suggestion that he play for Ireland, Magee is flattered but politely downplays the notion. Magee is eligible for Irish citizenship through is grandparents but has never gone through the process of acquiring a passport. He insists he has his sights set on representing the United States and for him to even consider Ireland he “would literally need for the U.S. to tell me I would never play" for them first.

This week could provide Magee with a chance to prove himself. In the first few days of 2014 Jurgen Klinsmann is expected to name his roster for the annual January camp. Since most European players will not be able to attend due to club commitments, the door could finally be open to Magee.

Many players who are on the outside of the U.S. national team frequently admit that they try to not think about making the team and instead simply celebrate it if the opportunity comes. Magee, however, is different. As a veteran of the U.S U-17 and U-20 national teams, he dreamed of playing for his country at the senior level and is confident that he can help the team.

There is historical precedent too for late inclusions into the U.S. team during World Cup years. In 2002, neither DaMarcus Beasley nor Pablo Mastroeni were important parts of World Cup qualifying but both emerged late in the cycle to make the World Cup team. In 2010, Herculez Gomez, Edson Buddle, and Robbie Findley were also late inclusions.

Magee is currently training for the camp and is both eager and hopeful to report for duty next week.

“I’ll never put it aside. I’m training as if I’m in that camp,” Magee said. “My glass is always kind of half full and I’d be lying if I said it hadn’t been on the back of my mind the last three years. It’s kind of been the one thing that has always kind of eluded me. I want it bad. I know I can help the team. There are a lot of good players. I know the quality I bring. I’m confident if I get my chance, I’ll do well with it.

“I don’t watch all the [U.S.] games but I watch most,” he added. “I have some really good friends on the team. It’s still painful to watch when it’s a team you want to be playing for. At the same time, I grew up a fan of this team. When they get to the World Cup, hopefully I’ll be there, but if not I’ll be rooting for them.”

Would you like to see Magee in the January camp? Why or why not? Tell us in the comments section below.

Brian Sciaretta is an American Soccer Now columnist and an ASN 100 panelist. Follow him on Twitter.

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