Galaxy's Hopes Rest With 'Mr. October'
Of the 22 players who will be on the field this coming Sunday evening in the MLS Cup final between the Los Angeles Galaxy and Houston Dynamo, Mike Magee isn't the first name that comes to mind. In a championship game that will feature Galaxy players David Beckham, Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane, Magee is not a household name by any stretch of the imagination. Despite that, Magee is the player most responsible for getting the Galaxy to this year’s final.
“I think every time the ball goes to [Magee], we expect him to score," Beckham said last week. “Thankfully, my crosses are finding him and he's putting them in the goal when we need him to.”
Magee’s latest heroics came in the 58th minute of the Western Conference final last Sunday against Real Salt Lake. Magee timed his run perfectly, connecting with a Beckham cross that resulted in a great goal to give the Galaxy a 2-1 lead. The Galaxy would end up winning 3-1 to reach the final.
Indeed, Beckham, who has three assists in the playoffs this season, is aiming to win his first MLS title in his final season with the Galaxy. Only a win against Houston stands in the way of proving to everyone that the Beckham Experiment was a success. For Beckham, his legacy is on the line. For Magee, it’s more about recognition after nine seasons in Major League Soccer – the story of an unsung hero finally getting some recognition.
Beckham’s fifth season with the Galaxy has by far been the best he had in Hollywood. The numbers tell part of the story. His 15 assists (second-best in MLS during the regular season) showed that his form is back to that of a decade ago and 10 yellow cards (tied for first with Sporting Kansas City's Aurelien Collin) proved that he wasn't afraid to mix it up.
At 36, Beckham remains a global soccer icon. When he signed with Los Angeles for $32.5 million in 2007, Beckham talked about changing the sport in the United States forever, much like Pele did in the mid-1970s. Whether that is part of Beckham's legacy is a matter of debate. For now, Beckham has shown fans across MLS that when he’s committed, he remains a great player and can make his teammates better. At the same time, Beckham has not ruled out a return to the Galaxy next season, although he has received offers to play in his native England.
As for Magee, who has been used as both a forward and attacking midfielder, he refuses to take any credit for propelling the Galaxy to the final. Instead, he thanked no other than Beckham.
“Every time David gets the ball, I always try to get into a good spot,” said Magee, whose goals against the New York Red Bulls and Real Salt Lake got the Galaxy to the final.
Aside from being humble, who is Magee? Picked by the NY/NJ MetroStars in the 2003 MLS SuperDraft, Magee was a promising forward. Relegated to the bench after his rookie season, Magee would go on to score just 23 goals over 130 games. Injuries didn’t help and the young Magee never saw much of the field during his six seasons in New York when the team was rebranded the Red Bulls but continued to come up short.
In January 2009, Magee’s resume got a boost when he was traded to the Galaxy. In his first season in L.A., Magee appeared in 23 league matches and scored twice. During the playoffs, Magee got hot, starting in all four of the Galaxy’s games - and scored twice - only to lose in the MLS Cup final against Real Salt Lake in a shootout.
There is something about the playoffs and Magee. This fall, the 27-year-old forward has scored three goals in as many games during another stellar postseason after scoring just five over 20 games during the 2011 regular season. Magee is Reggie Jackson and Derek Jeter all wrapped into one. He is soccer’s equivalent of “Mr. October” and “Mr. November.” Also, Magee's chemistry with Beckham is extraordinary – that in addition to playing at home at The Home Depot Center - could be what wins the Galaxy the 16th edition of the MLS Cup.
“There is a lot of pressure to win the next game,” Magee said to reporters following the win over Real Salt Lake. “It means nothing if we don’t win [against Houston].”
Never in Beckham's wildest dreams did he ever think his legacy would hinge on one game – possibly his final one – in a Galaxy jersey. He also never imagined his chances of lifting the trophy rested on whether a player named Magee could connect with his crosses effectively enough to help this star-studded team finally win some silverware.