First, let’s get the obvious out of the way: The LA Galaxy had to give up some quality today.
Mike Magee is a good player. He’s got a knack for timely goals – six in his last 10 playoff games. He’s obviously got a good understanding with LA’s other attackers, and he’s currently on pace for his highest-scoring season as a pro.
Currently, that’s seven goals. When (if?) he gets No. 8, he will have a new personal best.
So he’s a clever player, a guy with a knack for turning up in the right spot at the right time, and you could argue that he’s playing the best soccer of his career. I’d probably agree with that, though I’d also point out that three of his six goals this season came against the Fire in Week 1, when Chicago actually didn’t come out of the locker room until after halftime, as I remember it.
Whatever the numbers, though, this is a win for the Fire – they turned Dominic Oduro into Dilly Duka and Mike Magee. Score.
WATCH: Magee heads LA in front
Magee’s not going to win the Golden Boot, but in theory he’ll get into the right spots and finish good chances better than anybody else in Chicago is doing at the moment. I’d expect him to play more as a second forward, a guy who primarily works off the ball and does a lot of the “Wondolowski” things that coaches love, and fans learn to – especially if it leads to wins (and it should).
I’d also point out that Magee’s had more than one assist in a season only once in the last four years, which is kind of crazy when you play with the likes of Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane (and before that, Edson Buddle). He’s good at combining, but rarely sees the last pass.
The Fire can live with that. They need someone who’ll finish the last pass.
The Galaxy need someone else who can provide it, and there’s why the Robbie Rogers trade is a good one for them.
Currently, LA are better when they have pure wide players out there on the flanks. That’s why they brought in Christian Wilhelmsson last year, and that’s why Bruce Arena occasionally trolls the world by playing Sean Franklin at right midfield. (I pray to the fire god Moloch never to have to see that again).
WATCH: Rogers puts it on a tee
Rogers is a pure wide player. He has quickness, speed and one-v-one ability. He will stretch the field both horizontally and vertically, with and without the ball. He will create a ton of good chances and finish off a couple of them as well.
Rogers will also occasionally make really bad passes. He will occasionally miss sitters, and he will occasionally dribble all the way to the endline with his head down, then look up at the last minute and hit an “Oh, crap!” cross 12 rows into the stands. He’s always been prone to mental errors like that, ones that Magee almost never makes.
LA can live with that – as they did with Wilhelmsson’s penchant for the same – because with Rogers out there, it will be much, much much harder to focus on Donovan and Keane. Rogers will spread the defense out, giving the DPs more room to work.
And that will make the Galaxy better.
That’s what Arena was trading for here. Right now, Hector Jimenez – who is a nice player, but hardly Best XI quality – leads the league in “big chances created” per 90 minutes. More than Donovan, more than David Ferreira, more than Javier Morales or Mauro Rosales or Thierry Henry.
WATCH: Klinsmann, Rogers after Mexico draw
Jimenez, like Rogers and unlike Magee, is a pure wide player. LA’s system gives those players both room and license, and with all due respect to Hector, he’s not Robbie Rogers.
Rogers is a former Best XI player, and did it for one of the league’s great teams (the 2008 double-winning Crew). Rogers is a US national team-caliber player (18 caps) in his prime (26 years old) who’s played in the Olympics, picked up assists in World Cup qualifiers and scored vs. Mexico in a friendly.
And Rogers will slaughter defenses if he’s able to find the space that Jimenez has. There’s no real reason to think he won’t, by the way.
So I suspect this is one of those rare trades where both teams improved. The Fire get a guy who should score some goals for them, while the Galaxy get a guy who should force teams to stretch out defensively. Here are the highlights from the 4-1 win over Philly two weeks ago, if you’ve forgotten what that looks like.
There’s a risk, of course – Rogers is probably far from full fitness, and shouldn’t really be expected to produce until mid-summer. Magee, on the other hand, is almost three years older and injury-prone (he’s only played more than 2000 minutes in a season once in his 10-year career, and – you guessed it – is currently carrying a knock). Both these teams could end up looking back on this, two years from now, and feel a strong impulse to drink.
But I doubt it. My prediction is that everybody wins in this one – especially if the Fire ever need an emergency third ‘keeper.