Finally healthy and scoring goals at his best clip as a professional, Mike Magee couldn't have asked for a better time to return home.
Having scored three goals in the last four games, the Red Bulls striker was looking forward to playing in front of a host of family and friends when New York took on the Chicago Fire Saturday night at Toyota Park.
Instead the Chicago naïve was a late scratch because of a staph infection in his right arm. So much for the happy homecoming.
"It was pretty hard to accept," Magee said. "I don't think the timing could have been much worse. At the end of the day, with the infection that I had, it was pretty serious. The doctor said if I would have waited another 24 hours it would have been real serious and if I would have played and something happened it could have gotten pretty ugly."
After missing most of the past two years with a knee injury, Magee has appeared in 19 matches this year -- starting 11 -- and he's one of eight Red Bulls players with more than 1,000 minutes played this year. Third on the Red Bulls with four goals, Magee wanted to show more than 100 family members and friends who were scheduled to attend the match what a healthy Mike Magee could do.
But instead, Magee, who said he noticed a red welt on his forearm Wednesday, was diagnosed with a staph infection after visiting the Center for Infectious Diseases at Hackensack Medical Center following Friday's training session.
Magee was immediately brought to the emergency room to have the infection removed and figured he'd be good to play on Saturday. Not so, said his doctors.
"If anything worse happens, the way they cure it is they put an IV into your heart," Magee said. "Once they said that it kind of scared me a little bit and they gave me the Tony Meola scenario."
Two years ago, Meola, then the Red Bulls starting goalkeeper, was diagnosed with lymphangitis, a serious and potentially fatal bacterial infection if not treated quickly. It involves the quick inflammation of the lymph nodes and could be a result of an open cut or trauma.
Meola spent six days in the intensive care unit at St. Michael's Medical Center in Newark, N.J.
"It was scary, first telling me that I was in a life-threatening stage and I didn't know and then a day later, when the first antibiotic didn't work and we were getting to a point where they started discussing amputating my leg," Meola said at the time.
Suddenly rushing back on the field was secondary for Magee.
"Although it's pretty unfortunate that it came at a time when we're playing in Chicago and I'm enjoying a pretty good run and playing well, it's just one game and then I'll be fine," he said. "In the long run it's what's best."
Magee said about 55 family and friends still attended the match and the trip back to the Windy City wasn't a complete loss -- he was able to stay with his family Sunday and watch his beloved Bears open the NFL season with a 29-13 win at Indianapolis.
The Red Bulls do return to Chicagoland on Oct. 23 for their final regular season game. And there's always the juicy possibility of a playoff meeting, as well. But there's still seven more games for the Red Bulls, who again find themselves in a late-season playoff race.
"Hopefully, at that point our playoff spot is already set and it won't mean much," Magee said. "But if that's a pretty meaningful game, it will be a lot more important that's for sure."
Dylan Butler is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.