Before the 2011 season started, necessity forced Mike Magee to slide into the middle of the field from usual role as a forward for the LA Galaxy.
On Saturday, a greater need demanded a resonsibility that required Magee to offer one of his finest moments as the Galaxy lost both Donovan Ricketts and Josh Saunders to an injury and straight red card, respectively.
Magee answered the call by stepping in goal and holding San Jose scoreless for more than a half as the teams tied 0-0 at Buck Shaw Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
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While he has played several positions at various levels of soccer, Magee's positions did not include goalkeeper.
"Never," Magee said of the times he'd played in goal before. "Not even in a non-competitive match."
However, a need arose in the 43rd minute. After the defending MLS Goalkeeper of the Year resumed his netminding responsiblities for the Galaxy following Jamaica's exit from the Gold Cup, Ricketts' return to starting lineup was short-lived as he collided with countryman Khari Stephenson in front of the LA goal.
Ricketts suffered a fractured arm and was replaced by Saunders. The move did not catch Saunders unprepared, as he'd started three matches while Ricketts was away on international duty.
However, Ricketts' replacement did not last long. Saunders was sent off in the 43rd minute for elbowing San Jose's Stephen Lenhart after Lenhart poked the ball out of his hands. With a large, gaping hole in goal, Magee did not hesitate to raise his hand.
"I nominated myself," said Magee. "I think I looked around. Looking back, I don’t know why."
Initially, Magee tried to take it one minute at a time before the gravity of the situation set in.
"When I first went in there, I wasn’t nervous at all," he said. "I only thought I had to make it 10 minutes, and then we’d have a great plan at haltime where I’d be back on the field. And then we got back in [to the locker room], and it started hitting me that I was going back in goal, and that was pretty nerve-wracking."
Reduced to 10 men and having to play with a field player in goal, the Galaxy did not appear in a strong position to maintain their unbeaten run. With nothing to lose, Magee found encouragement from his boss.
"Bruce [Arena], he gave me all the confidence," Magee said. "He said to have fun with it and don’t worry about it."
The Quakes quickly tested Magee, who knocked the ball around on several San Jose attacks designed to capitalize on the inexperience of LA's de facto goalkeeper. Magee wound up with four saves and did his share in preserving not only the shutout but also the team's ongoing 10-game unbeaten streak.
LA likely never envisioned how their goalkeeping situation played out on Saturday, but how the match unfolded may help boost the team's morale and confidence.
"The fashion we won it definitely helps the team come together," Magee said. "I think the [nine] guys out there in front of me, they had to play one of the hardest games of the year. That’s definitely a game we could all celebrate and laugh. It was one of those games that we needed everyone to win, including three goalkeepers. I wanted to help us."
The Galaxy face a tricky situation heading into their next league match, on July 4 against Seattle. With Ricketts injured and Saunders suspended, the only healthy 'keeper on the roster is Brian Perk.
However, Magee has more than one half of goal-less action this season. Might he be an option?
"I hope not," he said.