BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. — Maybe the Chicago Fire just needed a forward when Mike Magee arrived last month, or maybe coach Frank Klopas saw something in Magee that reminded him of himself when he played up top for the US national team during the 1980's and 90's.
Either way, Magee is playing his favorite position consistently for the first time since his rookie year, and he might never let go of the spot after scoring six goals in his first six games with the Fire.
“I love playing forward. For my skill set, I think it's best,” Magee told MLSsoccer.com. “It was in my head when I came here that they needed a forward, but when I got here, Frank – he was a similar player to me – he basically came up to me, and said, 'We want you to play forward, where do you want to play?' And I said, 'forward.'”
Magee's arrival came just in time to key a run in the US Open Cup, in which Magee has scored twice in two wins. The Fire host Orlando City on Wednesday in the tournament's quarterfinal round (8:30 pm ET, live chat on MLSsoccer.com).
With Magee scoring at the rate he was early in the season for the LA Galaxy, which included six goals and a hat trick against the Fire, Klopas knew that good things would happen if he moved Magee up the field.
“At times, he's played out wide and he can play, I think, different spots,” Klopas said. “But I just thought that at that moment, we're bringing him in and we wanted to play him closer to goal because I think if you give him chances, he's proven not only here but in the past that he can finish, he can set up guys. So we just wanted to get him closer to the goal.”
The Fire were in desperate need of a player who could put the ball in the back of the net when Magee arrived via a trade with LA on May 25. Starting forwards Chris Rolfe and Sherjill MacDonald had scored one goal combined, and the Fire had netted just six goals in 10 games.
Magee has helped morph the Fire into a group that has gone unbeaten in seven, during which time they've scored 13 goals.
And he's doing it in different ways. On Wednesday, he chipped a penalty kick past Colorado goalkeeper Clint Irwin, and he's also scored on a few breakaways. On Saturday against Columbus, Magee latched onto a cross from Joel Lindpere by knocking the ball in with his upper body.
“It was off my shoulder,” Magee said. “The defender had the beat on me and I was just trying to get in front of him.
“I hoped it would hit me somewhere and it hit me right here,” he added as he pointed to his shoulder.
The goal put Magee in a tie for the MLS Golden Boot lead, but he won't comment on the number of goals he's scored. He'll just smile when asked about the streak and say he doesn't want to jinx himself.
But he's enjoying the success, that much is clear. And the feeling is plenty different from when he was a floppy-haired teenager scoring goals for the Metrostars.
“It's not similar to that at all,” he said. “It's fun, because I know the game better now. I've never scored this many goals before.”