When, in 2003, Mike Magee joined the MetroStars, as New York's MLS team was known at the time, a bright future was seemingly just around the corner for the club.
Six years later, when Magee parted ways with the New York Red Bulls, he left them as MLS Cup finalists and on the cusp of joining the league’s upper crust.
This year, New York has made even more noise on the American soccer scene and it has produced results. With the opening of Red Bull Arena and the addition of Designated Players Thierry Henry and Rafael Marquez, New York is one of the league’s hottest commodities.
That his former club has transformed itself in this way is not exactly a surprise.
“They always found a way to make it seem like they were on the up and up,” Magee said. “They were always bringing in players and trying to make changes. In my six years there I had about six different coaches and four different owners. It was a matter of time before they would be successful.”
Success has not always been part of New York's history. It is one of two MLS original clubs not to win a trophy of any kind and their surprising MLS Cup 2008 run was the club’s only appearance in the league’s title match.
While this year has been stellar—New York sits in second place in the Eastern Conference with 31 points—the club had a miserable season in 2009. But such sour campaigns weren’t unexpected.
“When I was there they were a bit of a disaster and now they seem to have their stuff together; a lot of good players, good coaching and with the guys I’ve spoken to over there, they all seem to be happy with the way things are going over there,” Magee said.
When moving from the Red Bulls to the Galaxy, Magee took a step up—the Galaxy had won two MLS Cup titles and two U.S. Open Cup titles before the Red Bulls ever reached an MLS Cup final.
New York, however, is now threatening to become one of the league’s elite clubs, with the presence of such top talents as Henry, Márquez, forward Juan Pablo Ángel, and burgeoning rookies Tim Ream and Toni Tchani.
“I hope every team can get up to our level,” Magee said. “Galaxy does things with a completely different class, from the front office all the way through to the players. Bruce Arena has done an amazing job of getting all the best people here and creating an amazing environment day in and day out. I’d love to see New York and every other team for that matter push the bar and raise the bar as we have.”
Saturday’s trip to face his old club is important to Magee for another reason. He’s healthy enough to play, having had surgery to correct a sports hernia injury. Magee took the field against Real Madrid a week ago but last played a league match on May 29.
“I’m pretty pumped to get out there and there’s not too much of a better place to do it than Red Bull Arena,” he said.
With several of his former teammates still around, Magee said he has an extra incentive to help the Galaxy notch a victory.
“I want to beat those guys,” he said. “I played six years there and there’s still some guys on that team I’m close with. So to get some bragging rights would be good.”