Monday Postgame: How can people overlook LA Galaxy star Mike Magee?

Well, that was some sweet music. With all but one team (New England) in action, we saw nine games, 24 goals, and several newcomers make strong impressions in a cracking opening weekend for the 2013 MLS season.

Diego Valeri sparkled in a rip-roaring game in Portland (while Mikaël Silvestre fizzled), new Designated Player Claudio Bieler bagged a goal in his Kansas City debut, and Vancouver midfielder Daigo Kobayashi performed like Chiumiento Version 2.0.

And in Seattle, Montreal and their new coach, Marco Schällibaum, nailed down the surprise result of the weekend.

But the player who stole the opening-weekend show wasn’t a new face, just a familiar one who forced us to see him with new eyes: Galaxy attacker Mike Magee scored three well-taken goals to lead his team to a 4-0 rout of Chicago at the Home Depot Center.

It was enough to make you reconsider his teammate Robbie Keane’s recent comment about Magee to Brian Straus of the Sporting News:

“Why has he never played for America? Has he been overlooked? Has he been considered? Have people mentioned him? Has the press mentioned him? No? … Why not give people like him a chance?”

At the time, Keane’s comments seemed more like a captain trying to pump up a teammate before the start of a season than like a serious line of questions.

But now, after Magee’s display against the Fire, it’s clear that, whatever his intentions, Keane achieved both ends: Magee was certainly fired up for the Galaxy’s opener, and Keane’s questions have taken on new resonance.

So has Magee been overlooked? Does he deserve a call-up to the USMNT?

Let’s check the record.

Mike Magee facts

After Magee was pressed into emergency goalkeeping service in June 2011, backstopping the Galaxy to an unlikely 0-0 draw with San Jose, the hashtag #MikeMageeFacts started trending on Twitter, in celebration of his Chuck Norris-like turn between the pipes.

But the actual facts on Magee’s resume are not too shabby on their own. He enrolled at the USSF Bradenton Academy at age 17, and suited up for the US at the 2001 U-17 World Cup and the 2003 U-20 World Cup before entering the MLS SuperDraft later that year.

The MetroStars traded Brad Davis to nab Magee with the fourth pick of that draft – an indication of how highly regarded the 18-year-old Magee was.

His first career MLS goal – which made him New York’s youngest-ever goalscorer at the time – was a game-winner (naturally.) He finished his rookie season with seven goals in 19 starts.

The MetroStars brought in some new strikers in 2004 and Magee’s stat production decreased in the next few seasons as he switched to attacking midfielder, but he contributed in other ways. Like Michael Bradley, his young teammate at the time, Magee was strikingly good in possession in his early Metro days. He rarely gave the ball away, and always made sound soccer decisions.

After injuries robbed him of parts or all of the next three seasons, he found a groove late in the 2008 season, scoring several key goals down the stretch as New York rallied for a playoff berth and made it all the way to MLS Cup.

Mr. November

The following year, Bruce Arena made a deal to bring Magee, whom he’d coached in New York, to Los Angeles.

He did not light it up in his first regular season with the Galaxy, but Magee did produce his first postseason burst, starting four playoff games and scoring two goals, including LA’s lone goal in the 2009 MLS Cup final against Real Salt Lake.

The injury bug bit again in 2010, costing Magee more than half the season, but in 2011 he scored 10 goals in all competitions, including three in the Galaxy’s postseason run to the MLS Cup title.

He produced more of the same in 2012, bagging nine goals and five assists in all competitions, including three big ones in the playoffs.

Off the radar

Magee is versatile – he can play as an attacking central midfielder, a wide midfielder and, as he demonstrated Sunday, a striker.

He’s technical and composed, with a sharp soccer brain that has him popping up in the right places all the time. Add these qualities to his uncanny knack for delivering in the most important moments and, well, don’t you have an exceptional player?

Keane says so. David Beckham did, too – calling Magee “a really intelligent player” during last year’s playoffs – and Bruce Arena also obviously thinks highly of Magee.

So why, apart from an uncapped invite in 2004, hasn’t Magee been called up to the national team? Why, after his dazzling 2012 postseason, wasn’t he mentioned along with say, Dax McCarty or Brad Evans, as a guy who should be called in to Jurgen Klinsmann’s January camp? Remember, Connor Lade was called in for those sessions.

One answer is that he’s been simply overshadowed by his more famous teammates in LA, his accomplishments an afterthought to, or an outgrowth of, theirs.

Another is that in addition to his lack of eye-popping regular-season numbers, Magee has some fairly average physical attributes: He’s not big or fast or super quick. He succeeds with guile, skill on the ball, fitness and, as he told the Galaxy website, doing “all the little things to stay on the field.”

Of course, Magee does big things, too, in big situations, but has still remained somewhat overlooked.

Toe in the pool?

As for the national team, it would have been interesting to see what Magee could have done with a January-camp invite this past winter. But the current timing is awkward. The US qualifying campaign is under way, and off to a losing start with two road games looming in the next three. It’s not the best time to be introducing brand new players to the setup.                                                                           

But Sunday’s display cannot have gone unnoticed, and Magee is still only 28.

He has time to transform Keane’s questions from slightly far-fetched to straight-up prescient. And Magee wouldn’t be the first MLSer to make a sudden leap from off the radar to on the roster.

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