BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – On Wednesday, for the first time in a Chicago Fire jersey, Mike Magee stepped on the field and didn’t score.
Given the way the 3-2 win over the San Jose Earthquakes played out, though, that might not be a bad thing.
Instead of goal poacher, Magee played the role of table setter, slotting a pinpoint back-post pass to Chris Rolfe for the game-winning goal in the 84th minute. Rolfe and the rest of Magee’s attacking compatriots took on the goalscoring responsibility, with Dilly Duka and Patrick Nyarko putting the ball in the back of the net before the clincher.
“Overall, that was probably our most complete game so far this year,” Rolfe said.
No Fire player had scored in multiple games before Magee's arrival in late May. Now, five players have scored in multiple games, and the Fire attack has plenty of options. A month ago, the loss of Nyarko, who injured his hamstring and may be out on Sunday against Sporting Kansas City (3 pm ET; watch on ESPN, live chat on MLSsoccer.com), would have been a disaster. But now Joel Lindpere, who delivered two pinpoint crosses for assists in his last start, is ready to step in.
The Fire will ride a six-game unbeaten streak in MLS (nine games overall) into Sunday's game with an opportunity to climb into a playoff position for the first time all season. That might have seemed unthinkable before Magee arrived in a May 25 trade with the LA Galaxy in exchange for the rights to Robbie Rogers' signature.
“We've got some momentum going on,” Nyarko said. “It's a huge one against Kansas City. If we get a good result, we're right back in it.”
Still, for all the positivity, there have been some recurring defensive lapses. The Fire fell behind early against San Jose, an consistent issue throughout the last two seasons. Goalkeeper Paolo Tornaghi, who was starting in the place of US call-up Sean Johnson, was shaky on San Jose's first goal after a rough outing against Chivas USA early in the season.
But now, the Fire are able to respond when they're dealt an early blow, and that's why they're moving swiftly up the conference standings.
“Our soccer hasn’t been great at times,” Magee said, “Obviously, we’ve been shooting ourselves in the foot, but we continue to get points since I’ve gotten here.”