To be honest, there was probably no MLS franchise more yawn-inspiring than the Chicago Fire through the early stages of the 2013 season, as they quickly became soccer's version of the sad sack Cleveland Browns. This year, the Fire hardly got off to a hot start - dropping seven of their first 10 matches. They desperately needed a spark.
Enter Mike Magee. He joins the Fire, and they go on a six-game unbeaten streak in MLS play. Magee scores in five of those matches, including a goal on five shots in his first match in a Fire uniform, versus DC United. Suddenly, the Fire are on the ascendency, albeit from the deep, deep pit that they'd dug for themselves in the early going.
Now in his 12th MLS campaign, the 28-year-old forward/midfielder was acquired from the LA Galaxy near the end of May in exchange for the rights to Robbie Rogers, who had decided to come out of retirement, but was balking at playing in Chicago. The move was a homecoming for Magee, as the swap saw the MLS veteran return to the city where he was born and raised.
In moving from LA, where he played in the midfield for the Galaxy, and bore the moniker "Mr. November" for his clutch post-season play, "Magic Mike" - as he's now referred to - doesn't seem to have missed a beat.
He's currently tied for tops in Major League Soccer with 11 goals in 16 matches played thus far. He boasts a 23.8% scoring percentage, tops on the team, among the starters. His 0.86 goals per 90 minutes played leads the starters, leaving Maicon Santos (0.51) and Daniel Paladini (0.27) in the dust. Paladini won't figure for Chicago this weekend, as he's serving a one-match ban for a straight red issued last week.
But it's not all been high fives and big grins among Magee and his new mates. Last week, after the Fire had dropped a 2-1 decision to Sporting KC in a dismal showing, Magee flamed his new side:
"I can't remember a time in the 2nd half where, during the run of play, we had three players in our attacking box. It's a joke. It's unacceptable...It makes me sick," he vented to MLSsoccer.com.
Magee has been named to the 2013 MLS All-Star Fan XI, and has 46 career goals in 240 regular season matches.
Chicago is not without its attacking options, notably M/F Chris Rolfe, who has a cannon of a shot, and midfielder Dilly Duka, who leads the Fire in shots on goal with 14. Still, Chicago has managed only four away goals this season, and has claimed only one road victory in seven tries so far this season.
If Chicago somehow manages to improve on those stats this weekend, it's highly likely that Mike Magee will feature heavily in that success. The Vancouver Whitecaps would do well to mark him tightly - or they could well end up getting burned.