Chicago Fire midfielder Mike Magee heads away from the goal after scoring… (Nam Y. Huh / Associated Press )
When Mike Magee walked into StubHub Center on Friday morning, the return inspired memories and goose bumps.
"This stadium [is] a place that had a pretty special place in my heart," said Magee, a fan favorite during his five seasons with the Galaxy.
It could become even more special if Magee gets an opportunity to play Saturday afternoon before a sold-out crowd in the U.S. national team's exhibition with South Korea.
Major League Soccer's reigning most valuable player, Magee went nine years between call-ups to a national team camp. And he has yet to play a game for the U.S. But he has impressed Coach Juergen Klinsmann over the last 31/2 weeks of training, and a good performance Saturday could push him into the mix for a spot on the World Cup team this summer.
"He kind of fit right in," Klinsmann said of Magee, who tied for the MLS lead with 21 goals, 15 coming after a May trade that sent him from the Galaxy to his hometown Chicago Fire. "He's a guy that can adjust easily to his teammates and is part of the group right away. We are happy that we finally had a closer look at him.
"And hopefully he gets a chance tomorrow to show that."
Magee is hoping so too. Versatile enough to play up front or in the midfield — he even played one game for the Galaxy in goal, where he posted a shutout — he was used in camp exclusively as a forward, a position already crowded with candidates.
However Magee, 29, is among the best of that lot at tracking back on defense, a skill that is both underappreciated and useful on a stage as big as the World Cup.
"I like to take a lot of pride in defending," he said, "and in not being a liability defensively."
He may need to do a little more than that to keep the attention of Klinsmann, who scored 282 goals for club and country and won a World Cup with the German national team. The calendar is also working against Magee. With just Saturday's game and next month's friendly in Ukraine on the national team's schedule ahead of the May deadline for selecting the preliminary World Cup roster, Magee has little time left to make an impression on the coaching staff.
But whatever happens against South Korea, Magee will leave StubHub Center on Saturday night the same way he left it last May: with no regrets.
"Ultimately that's up to him," Magee, nodding toward Klinsmann, said of the roster.
"I'm content with my ability and happy with my camp. And know that no matter what happens, there's still a lot of work to do between now and June. So it's going to be a good day no matter."