Magee, Yallop clicking early for Fire
BY BRIAN SANDALOW Special to the Sun-Times February 7, 2014 12:34AM
HOUSTON, TX - JULY 27: Jermaine Taylor #4 of the Houston Dynamo battles for the ball against Mike Magee #9 of the Chicago Fire at BBVA Compass Stadium on July 27, 2013 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Updated: February 7, 2014 12:38AM
Mike Magee and Frank Yallop didn’t need long to make good impressions on each other.
Back from his time with the U.S. Men’s National Team, the reigning MLS MVP debuted at preseason training with the Fire on Thursday in Bradenton, Fla. And after hearing about it from teammates, Magee was able to see his new coach’s demeanor for himself.
It sounds like he was impressed by what he experienced.
“I’ve always heard that he’s a great guy. He’s a guy who likes to enjoy himself and at the same time he’s kind of got a ‘get on the bus or get under it’ mentality, which is perfect for me,” Magee said Thursday. “If a guy doesn’t want to work hard for his teammates then he won’t be here, and we’re going to enjoy ourselves while doing that.”
His return to training was definitely better than last weekend for Magee, who had a chance for his first appearance in a national-team game but was hit with food poisoning. The illness kept him out of the 2-0 U.S. win over South Korea but didn’t seem to deprive him of much during his first Fire training session of the season.
“I’m good,” Magee said. “I’m still struggling a little bit with food but in comparison to how I felt about … whatever it was, four days ago, I’m a million bucks.”
Magee was probably worth that much or more to last year’s Fire. His arrival and emergence as one of the league’s premier players almost pushed them into the playoffs despite a slow start.
Early in their working relationship, Yallop liked what he saw in Magee.
“Looks real sharp,” Yallop said. “He’s one of those guys that comes in and just looks class.”
With Magee and goalkeeper Sean Johnson also back from the national team, Yallop has two of his most important players in the fold. He can now start to implement his tactics and system, which is reliant on up-tempo play and pushing for possession.
Magee, who bagged 15 goals in 22 Fire appearances last season, will be a big part of that.
“He’s in good spirits, looked good, looked sharp, looked fit,” Yallop said. “It’s good to have him back.”
As camp and the season wear on there will also be an emphasis on the spirit of the team and unity. To Magee, that process is already going well.
“The coaching staff has done an amazing job of gelling this team together in a quick amount of time and getting everyone to fight for each other, and it’s only been a week,” Magee said. “It’s all the little things we’re taking care of now that will pay dividends throughout the course of the season.”
The Fire will face D.C. United on Saturday in Bradenton in their second preseason friendly.