As the Best of 2013 continues on MLSsoccer.com, we're counting down the 10 most important stories of the year in Major League Soccer. On Dec. 30, we'll reveal the Story of the Year, as voted by our panel of 20 editors, writers, videographers and statistics specialists.
New media editor Nicholas Rosano is up next at No. 7 with his look at a breakout season for Mike Magee, who helped facilitate a high-profile trade from LA to Chicago and posted numbers good enough to win the first MVP award of his career.
It had to happen sometime, didn’t it?
Mike Magee, a ruthless a finisher as any in the 2011 and 2012 playoffs for the LA Galaxy, seemed due to translate his playoff heroics into a productive regular season at some point, and it certainly happened in 2013 – just not with the team everyone expected.
Magee served his statement of intent on the opening day of the season, scoring a hat trick for the Galaxy against – of all teams – the Chicago Fire. The irony of that opening-day hat trick would manifest itself three months later when Magee, now back with his hometown Fire, netted seven goals in his first seven games after heading to the Windy City in exchange for the rights to Robbie Rogers.
In many ways, it was a heartwarming story all around – Magee would get a chance to play in front of his hometown fans and be near his family, while Rogers would head back to his roots in Southern California as he prepared for one of the most difficult tasks any athlete has faced in becoming the first openly gay male to play a major American professional team sport.
BEST OF 2013: Check out all the Stories of the Year
Added Fire president of soccer operation Javier Leon to MLSsoccer.com, also at the time of the trade: “He wanted to come back home. I think that was on his mind for some time. I think that was the critical piece in getting someone like [Galaxy head coach] Bruce Arena to agree to part ways with Mike Magee.”
From an on-the-field perspective, though, the trade appeared to be one of the most lopsided in MLS history, and set up an unforgettable season for Magee that ended with him taking home the 2013 Volkswagen MLS MVP trophy after scoring 21 goals on the season – triple his total from any other regular-season campaign in his 11-year MLS career.
And even as he stepped to the podium to receive his award when all was said and done, the gravity of it all still seemed difficult for Magee to grasp.
“I spent the next week wondering if the phone call was real,” he told the assembled reporters of his reaction to being named MVP at his presentation.
Despite leading the Fire to a 12-6-5 record and US Open Cup semifinal appearance after his arrival, Magee and the Fire fell painfully short in their playoff push, seeing their postseason dreams painfully crushed in a 5-2 defeat to the New York Red Bulls on the final day of the regular season.
"In my opinion, I feel like we laid down a little bit, we lacked a little bit of heart, which in the situation we were in I feel like that's all we really needed,” Magee said after that loss. “We didn't have the right mentality to get ourselves out of any holes.”
That naturally led to some debate over whether Magee really deserved the MVP award despite not making the playoffs – he was just the second player in league history to do so – and though he actually agreed with the sentiment, he was not about to let that dampen his and the Fire’s impressive accomplishments that followed his arrival.
“I agree with them,” he said at his MVP presentation. “But having said that, we did something pretty special. Obviously I wish I was with the team from the start, but in this league, sometimes you just need a spark. And what we accomplished over the course of the past two and a half months was pretty amazing.”