It’s May 29 in Rock Hill, SC and the Chicago Fire are readying to open their 2013 U.S. Open Cup campaign away to the Charlotte Eagles.
With the Fire running out to a shoddy start in the league, the team takes this tournament seriously from the beginning, putting out nine of 11 starters from that weekend’s league match. There’s also the fan fare around the club debut of Mike Magee, traded to the Fire just days before from the LA Galaxy in exchange for the rights to Robbie Rogers.
With the player returning to his hometown side and the club’s history in the tournament being what it was, beaming that one-camera web stream back to all the supporters in Chicago was a must. Just as referee Lance Vanhaitsma blew the whistle for kickoff, the Chicago-Fire.com announcer on the scene exclaimed, “We’re underway in South Car-------“.
The stream cut out. The computer crashed. Devoted Fire fans gathered in bars and around laptop screens everywhere shrieked.
As the stream operator, I got a pit in my stomach and probably said a few expletives. Sorry about that.
While the machine rebooted I gathered myself and hoped against hope that we wouldn’t miss capturing Mike Magee’s first goal in a Fire uniform.
After 10 minutes of scoreless soccer, we got the stream back up.
Looking up at the field from my computer screen, I see Alex lay a pass off for Gonzalo Segares. The Fire veteran quickly crosses looking for his new teammate at the back post and seizing the moment, Magee headed home past Eagle’s ‘keeper Eric Reed from close range (WATCH HIGHLIGHTS).
The stream had been back up for 15 seconds and right there I knew there may be something special about Magee’s arrival in Chicago.
This Sunday marks the one-year anniversary of Magee’s trade from the LA Galaxy and there’s little doubt about the impact he’s made since. Twenty-one goals and six assists between two clubs last season and the single biggest reason for the Fire’s turnaround from a slow start garnered him an unexpected league MVP award in 2013.
Add his Open Cup stats from last season and the four goals and two assists he’s bagged this year and Magee has 28 goals and eight assists in 44 competitive games since the start of 2013.
“It’s crazy to think it’s already been a year,” Magee told Chicago-Fire.com this week. “It’s probably one of the best things that’s happened to me in my life and has definitely been the best year of my life in soccer and off the field as well. I’m more than happy to be here.”
Magee’s scoring rate for the Fire alone has been the topic of some discussion this season. His two penalties in Sunday’s 2-1 win over Sporting KC has pushed him into a tie with Jesse Marsch for ninth on the club’s all-time MLS goal scoring list at 19. Marsch played 200 games as a defensive midfielder for the Fire, Magee has played 30, albeit in a striker’s role most of the time.
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“I’ve seen the chart, it’s pretty cool,” he said. “I saw Jesse Marsch even though he’s not a goal scorer, I remember watching him as a kid. Sometimes when you see your name on lists with certain people it makes it hits home that what you’re doing is special.”
With the Fire not having a long-time scoring threat since Ante Razov departed following the 2004 season, almost every time the reigning MLS MVP hits the back of the net this season, he’ll move further up the ladder.
Next in his sights will be eighth placed Nate Jaqua (21 goals, 96 GP) and tied for sixth, familiar names from the past in the form of Damani Ralph (22 goals, 51GP) and Dema Kovalenko (22 goals, 90 GP).
“I played a few seasons with Dema in LA and New York and Damani and I came into the league the same year -- we all know how good he was in his short time with the Fire.
“I think seeing the company you’re keeping in something like that is the coolest part.”
WATCH: Mike Magee's 2013 MVP Campaign