MLSsoccer.com polled 20 of our editors, writers, videographers and statistics specialists to bring you the Best of 2013, running Dec. 23 through Jan. 1. Each day we'll hand out an award in a variety of categories culled from the storylines of MLS, including Biggest Controversy, Gaffe of the Year and, via fan vote revealed on Dec. 30, the Moment of the Year.
New media editor Nicholas Rosano continues the series with a look at the Transaction of the Year, honoring the best trade or international pickup this season. The runaway winner - even in a year of impressive deals done in New England and Portland - was the Chicago Fire's trade for Mike Magee in May. Magee went on to win the league MVP, the first of his career.
The 2013 MLS season saw plenty of headline-grabbing trades, but none more so than the much-discussed deal that saw Mike Magee head to play for his hometown Chicago Fire, with his new team sending the LA Galaxy Robbie Rogers in return.
A postseason hero for the Galaxy in both their 2011 and 2012 MLS Cup runs, Magee wasted no time in establishing himself as a key player on the Fire, scoring seven goals in his first seven games for a team that had only scored that same number in the 11 gamesprior to his arrival.
Not the fastest and certainly not the tallest or strongest player, Magee reinvented himself as a deadly goal poacher, making up for his small physical stature with a keen sense of when and where to move off the ball, and how to put himself in dangerous positions. None of his goals were particularly spectacular, but with good service and playing in a formation and system not too different from his time in LA, he turned into a consistent and clinical finisher.
“I tend to think I have a pretty good soccer brain,” he told Overlap magazine. “And although I am quicker than I think I look on tape, I have always just popped up in good spots.”
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Whatever his secret is, it certainly yielded results, as Magee finished the season with 21 goals and 4 assists – putting him second in the Budweiser Golden Boot race and giving him Volkswagen MVP honors, capping off a year that was certainly memorable on the field, and also saw him closer to his loved ones than ever before in his MLS career.
“I’ve had a lot more seasons that had ups and downs, but this season, it just seemed like things just kept getting better,” he said. “From a soccer standpoint, and a life standpoint.”
Rogers, meanwhile, struggled to make an impact with the Galaxy after a very trying period personally following a brief absence from soccer. He was in and out of the LA starting lineup, starting 7 of the 11 games he featured in and totaling just one assist in 602 minutes. And though the Galaxy were postseason bound once again, they sorely missed Magee’s clutch playoff scoring in their Western Conference Semifinal series, as a Sean Franklin wonder goal was all that prevented LA from being shut out entirely in their 2-1 aggregate loss against Real Salt Lake.
It’s a trade that could still pan out for LA – after all, Rogers had plenty on his plate besides just trying to succeed on the field, and a full preseason with the team could go a long way to helping him rediscover the form that once made him one of the most feared wingers in MLS with the Columbus Crew and a rising star for the US national teams.
For the meantime, though, it’s clear that Magee and the Fire got this one right.
2. Jose Goncalves
The New England Revolution drew plenty of plaudits in 2013 for playing technical, attacking soccer with a young squad, but it all held together thanks to the outstanding play of an unheralded journeyman center back, Jose Goncalves.
Acquired prior to the season on loan from Swiss outfit FC Sion, Goncalves (right) was an immediate hit for the Revs with his dominant defensive displays that helped the team get through the early part of the season as their attacking game coalesced. That level of play stayed consistent throughout the entire season as evidenced by his ironman streak – he was one of only three outfield players to play every single minute of all 34 games in 2013 – and when all was said and done, it was good enough for the Revs to earn their first playoff berth since 2009 and for Goncalves to take home Defender of the Year honors in his first season Stateside.
It’s a no-brainer, then, that the Revs will be bringing Goncalves back on a permanent basis for the 2014 season and beyond – a move that they hope will be just as successful as their initial choice to bring him in.
3. Diego Valeri
Much was made over Caleb Porter’s offseason overhaul of his new team, and perhaps no new Timbers player caught the eye in 2013 as much as Diego Valeri. While Will Johnson drew the plaudits for his yeoman’s work in keeping the Timbers midfield together, it was Valeri who provided that extra flash and much-needed creativity to the attack.
The Argentine playmaker immediately caught the eye, scoring a Goal of the Year finalist in his Timbers debut when he split two New York Red Bulls defenders by juggling the ball up onto his chest, controlling it, and letting it drop before lashing it home. He was no flash in the pan, either, as he played 31 games and 2,277 minutes for the Timbers and tallied 10 goals and 13 assists – making him and LA’s Robbie Keane the only two players in 2013 to get double digits in both categories.
Like the Revs with Goncalves, the Timbers wasted no time in making Valeri’s move from Argentina’s Lanus permanent, ensuring that the effects of his signing will be felt for a long time to come.