The Montreal Impact continued their MLS slide with a 1-0 defeat at LA Wednesday night. While the result was important to the Fire’s playoff chances (and potential positioning), the fact that Marco Di Vaio was again held scoreless and thus stayed tied with the Fire’s Mike Magee in the MLS Golden Boot race was another great outcome from Wednesday.
So there I was Thursday morning, itching to ask the man most responsible for the Fire’s turnaround this season how he felt about Di Vaio not scoring and if he was looking at trying to bag a few goals in Saturday’s game vs. Toronto to potentially take sole possession of the lead over.
“You know I don’t care about that,” Magee said. “All that’s on my mind is Saturday.”
Shrug…I knew he was going to say that but I had to ask anyway...
While Magee does have a great opportunity to bolster his 19 MLS goals Saturday vs. lowly Toronto FC, his answer to that question is reflective of why he’s in the running for the league’s MVP award.
Though the deal was much more difficult to get done, Magee symbolically “raised his hand” to become the player that went the other way in the Robbie Rogers trade with LA back in May, joining a Fire side that was 2-7-2 and a playoff afterthought before he stepped on the field.
Since returning to his hometown, the Fire are the hottest team in MLS with an 11-5-5 mark and could clinch that once unthinkable playoff berth this weekend.
Magee would never say his 13 goals and four assists in 20 matches since May are the biggest change for a Fire team that found offensive production difficult in the first part of the season.
He wouldn’t take credit for the platitudes players and fans alike have rained on him for his animated play on the field and overall leadership qualities.
Instead, the difference he sees for a Fire team on the brink of a postseason berth is one in perception from afar.
“I think the biggest change is that people outside the locker room are starting to believe we’re for real,” Magee told Chicago-Fire.com Thursday. “When I got here, as far back as we were in the standings, I don’t think anyone in this locker room thought it was impossible [to get to this point].
People are jumping on the bandwagon now but from when I joined I don’t think anyone on the outside would have pegged us to be here.”
Whether or not he cares about the Golden Boot or directly acknowledges what he’s brought to the Fire, Magee has been transformational for the Men in Red this season.
Even when he's been off, he's been on.
Case in point: though he scored both goals, Magee put a disappointing 2-2 draw vs. Montreal two weeks ago squarely on his shoulders after missing a penalty kick that would have put the match out of reach.
Rather than hiding after the match, Magee stood up faced the press and simply said, “That was a situation where I have to put that one away for the team and so tonight's on me... We have four games left and we’re going to make the playoffs.
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While he faces tough competition for both the Golden Boot and MLS MVP awards from the likes of Di Vaio, Robbie Keane, Diego Valeri and Camilo, none have meant as much to their squads as he has this season.
As such, he’s earned my vote for the club’s 2013 Most Valuable Player award which is set to be announced prior to Saturday’s game.
A shoe-in for the honor, let’s hope it’s followed by by playoff qualification, a Golden Boot trophy, MLS MVP accolades and a coveted U.S. Men's National Team call-up.