Mike Magee has earned a lot of mantles during his 11-year career in Major League Soccer: 'Two time MLS Cup Winner', 'Magic Mike,' 'Mr November,' and most recently, the league's most prestigious award, the MVP. Yet, for the 29-year-old, one important title continues to evade him -- US International.
It’s not to say Magee is devoid of any national team experience. As a teenager, he was called into the youth camps of both the U17 and U20 teams. However even his exposure with the U17's came thanks to insistence from Bob Bradley that Magee be included in the residency program.
"He's the guy who is probably the reason I'm here today," Magee said of Bradley to ESPNFC in October. "A couple of years later he drafted me to New York and played me a lot which is rare. Then on top of that he taught me how to be a good pro."
Admitting to difficult times in New York, Magee escapes the shadow of soccer by having coffee or lunch with his family or by seeing his young daughter ride her Grandmother's horse: "Everyday I’m reminded the decision to come here was a good one, even without the soccer," he explains.
Departing the Red Bulls (formerly the Metrostars) in 2009, Magee had initially hoped to return to his native Chicago with the Fire. A fan from his youth, he speaks fondly of days spent occasionally training alongside Frank Kloppas as a teenager. He cites his recently departed coach as a strong motivation behind his stellar half season in the Windy City -- the desire to impress his hero.
Achieving his goal, Magee also has a tactical theory on just why he has thrived at Toyota Park: "Bringing Juan [Luis Anangonó] in was great. He compliments me a lot. As we continue to build a relationship he's going to be the best thing that's happened to me."
Magee points to Anangono's high work rate, winning balls and being athletic, as the reasons why he was able to thrive in his first year with the Fire.
With Logan Pause speaking of the confidence Magee brought to the team, the man himself was not always so self-assured.
"I was actually a bit scared [about the trade]," Magee recalled. "Things were so great in LA and I had made up my mind what was best for my three year old daughter was to get her to Chicago. Telling them [LA Galaxy] what I needed was difficult. It was a bitter moment, it was hard to walk out of that locker-room."
Returning to the club aged 28, Magee concedes his career would have been somewhat different had it happened in 2009 as planned. Back then a phone-call from Bruce Arena convinced Magee to skip over his hometown and head west to the Los Angeles Galaxy. At the Home-Depot Centre, Magee won trophies and sampled life alongside the likes of David Beckham and Landon Donovan. However, Magee believes that the addition of Robbie Keane really helped his game.
"His movement off the ball and with the ball is the best in this league by far," Magee said of the legendary Republic of Ireland striker.
A fellow finalist for the award of MVP, the pair clicked at LA due to their shared insatiable work ethic.
It appears that Keane is quite fond of his former strike partner as well. In fact, Keane wouldn't mind reuniting with Magee on a national front.
Keane told the Irish Independent: "I keep reminding the manager it was stupid to get rid of him because he's after banging in 20 goals or something. His whole family is Irish. His grandfather or father. I'd say he would play for us.
He added, "He definitely would like to but he’s probably waiting for that American call-up. He's not an international. How he hasn't got it I don’t know."
Magee was not forthcoming with opinions on why he has been overlooked by Jurgen Klinsmann when asked in October. He is only the third MVP in league history to be uncapped internationally, and the first since Brazilian forward Luciano Emilio in 2007.
With the potential now to explore a future with the Republic of Ireland, Magee has an interesting dilemma ahead. It's clear that he hasn't had the conversations that he would like with USSF, Magee coyly replied: "I'm waiting for a phone call lets put it that way."
Considering his numbers of 21 goals and four assists, it isn't conceited for Magee to at least consider gaining a shot at the Stars and Stripes. And once again, it appears that he's overlooked. The November friendlies presented the perfect opportunity to introduce Magee into the squad and provide him a reward for finishing the season as the top scoring American in MLS. Especially when you consider the importance that Klinsmann supposedly gives to club form. Instead that spot was handed to a former MVP, Chris Wondolowski.
While Wondolowski has consistently put up numbers in MLS, 2013 was an off year for the San Jose star putting up 11 goals and two assists. Plus, Wondolowski hasn't exactly wowed anyone while being a member of the U.S. Magee, who is able to play up front or out wide on the right, possesses a similar versatility.
Ultimately, Magee is yearning for the chance to be involved, you sense it when he talks about the potential to put the jersey on 'even just once.' Now, blessed with an award that deems him the league’s Most Valuable Player for 2013, few can contest that he deserves it.