BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – Mike Magee offered the strongest indication yet that his future could remain with the Chicago Fire.
He said Friday at the team’s training session that “it would be a shame if we didn’t enjoy the next five years together,” dismissing recent speculation that he wouldn’t return when his contract expires at the end of the season.
The 2013 MLS MVP has endured a horrid time with injuries since the high of scoring 15 goals in 22 games after making his return to his native city with a bang in May 2013.
But with his contract running down, just 360 minutes under his belt this year and the removal of a reference to playing for the Fire from his highly-active Twitter profile, speculation has been rife that Magee has played his last game for the Men in Red. The fact that he was not in the gameday squad for a recent match against D.C. United added further fuel to the rumor mill (he also missed the #DecisionDay match against the New York Red Bulls).
However, the Elmhurst, Ill., native on Friday spoke about staying in Chicago for the long term.
“People think after being out for so long that my career is winding down, or that I’ve lost a step,” Magee told MLSsoccer.com. “The truth is, believe it or not, that this surgery has made me stronger. And it will make me better. Nobody is more upset with how long this rehab process has taken than I am. But after the pain the club and I have suffered through the last two years, it would be a shame if we didn’t enjoy the next five years together.”
Magee scored seven goals in 17 games last season, but his prolonged absences over the last two years have robbed the team of not only his goals and creativity in the final third, but also of his leadership, communication and passion for the club.
The 31-year-old, who has scored 64 goals in 286 games in 13 seasons with New York, LA Galaxy and the Fire, played down his Twitter profile change and the subsequent reaction with the simple quip: “You’ve got to love Twitter.”
There may also be an explanation to his absence from the gameday lineups. Interim head coach Brian Bliss revealed that Magee, who underwent surgeries on his hip and knee in September 2014, told him "he wanted to focus on health and strengthening" ahead of the October 18 match against D.C. United.
Magee’s current two-year contract expires at the end of this season, meaning he could become one of the first players to capitalize on his eligibility for free agency and negotiate a new deal elsewhere. Under the terms of the most recent CBA talks and the 28/8 rule, players over the age of 28 with eight or more years in MLS are free to choose their team.
“I can’t predict the future,” Magee said when asked if he thought he had played his last game for the Fire. “What I can do and what I am doing is getting my body as strong and fit as it’s ever been. This club should know better than anyone what I’m capable of and vice versa. This was the first soccer team I loved, and one way or another it will be the last.”
Shane Murray covers the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com.