Mike Magee returns for second shot at USMNT spot

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Magee has waited ten years for the opportunity to earn a spot with the USMNT. Now with the World Cup on the horizon, this former hot prospect has the chance to shine.

Mike Magee's career path should be one of the more unique stories in US soccer; after all there aren't many players with a chance to break into a World Cup squad despite no senior caps over his ten-year career. The reason it's not unique is because of another player in January camp he'll be fighting with for a spot on the final roster, Chris Wondolowski.

Winning 2013 MLS MVP and in the Golden Boot race with fifteen goals was not something anyone expected of a player whose best finish was seven goals in this 2003 rookie season. Wondolowski knows the feeling, as before his 2010 Golden Boot winning 18-goal performance, the best he had ever turned in was three. It's an unfortunate reality of soccer in the US that it can take years before a player's true role is discovered.

However, for Mike Magee, he doesn't see this as a new beginning. It's a decade of hard work's culmination, a continuation of everything he's been working on.

"I feel like the last three or four years I've established a lot of good habits. Just trying to get better every day."

That period of time would be under Bruce Arena at the LA Galaxy. While moving to the Chicago Fire led to his goal explosion, Magee spoke of it as a personal journey. One in which he had to earn his way back into the gaze of the national team.

Like Magee, Wondolowski's 2010 breakout performance six seasons into his career led to a winter camp call up. Since then he has seventeen appearances, but until this past season's Gold Cup he only had one goal in a friendly. A hat trick and a brace in the Cup brought up his goal total, but it's still a struggle for the forward to claim a regular spot in the squad.

That's the task Magee is faced with now, to make the most of an opportunity well into his senior career. To convince Jurgen Klinsmann that he deserves playing time over players younger and that have more caps on their resume. It's not an easy task.

The big difference between Magee and Wondolowski is that Magee was a rated prospect as a youngster. He went through the IMG Soccer Academy, and has caps with the U-17 and U-20 squad. This isn't his first January camp, but it's been so long even he can't remember the last time he was called in.

"When you're young you feel like it's a normal thing and you might take it for granted. How many ever years later, I won't make that mistake again."

They're words similar to how Landon Donovan describes his early career, and having to realize that the going won't always be so easy. For Magee he scored a match winner in the 2003 FIFA World Youth Championship, but Bruce Arena didn't see a role for him on the senior squad.

At the age of 19 he was a possible MLS Rookie of the Year finalist who loved Chicago and possessed an impressive resume, yet Magee soon after falls of the table. Until Robbie Keane campaigned for him to get a call-up to the Irish national team, there wasn't much linking Magee to an international career.

He's finally in the right place at the right time.

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