The first time Mike Magee was invited to train with the U.S. soccer national team, he was young and cocky and admits he didn't appreciate the honor.
So it's probably no surprise that it took nine years before he was asked back.
"When you're young you feel like it's just a normal thing and you take it for granted," said Magee, who is at StubHub Center in Carson for Coach Juergen Klinsmann's final extended camp before this summer's World Cup. "I won't make that mistake again."
It took a 21-goal season that ended with Magee hoisting Major League Soccer's most-valuable-player award to change the way the national team looked at the Chicago Fire forward. But more important, it took the maturity of age and the responsibility of fatherhood to change the way he looked at himself.
"I do think at this point in Mike's life he's more focused on his profession," said Bruce Arena, who coached Magee with the New York Red Bulls, the Galaxy and the U.S. national team in 2005. "Having the responsibility of a child is part of the maturation process."
That process began almost immediately after Magee's daughter, Keira, was born in March 2010. Gone was what Magee called "the bachelor lifestyle" and over the next two seasons he played more games and scored as many goals as he had in any previous two-year stretch. It rekindled the promise he had shown as a teenager and helped the Galaxy win consecutive MLS titles.
But that did little to prepare anyone for last season, when Magee scored six goals in 10 games with the Galaxy before being traded home to Chicago, where he scored 15 goals, tying for the league lead.
While that was unfolding, Magee heard nothing from the national team, which used three squads for World Cup qualifying during the summer and fall and a fourth roster for last July's World Cup qualifying. Those snubs inspired former Galaxy teammate Robbie Keane, captain of the Irish national team, to push for Magee to play for Ireland, where his family has roots.
Six weeks later, Klinsmann made Keane's offer moot, returning Magee to the U.S. roster where, at 29, he is the oldest player without an international cap. Asked whether Keane's support helped, Magee smiled and said "it didn't hurt."
Now it's up to Magee to prove he belongs. If he survives this weekend's roster trim, he'll travel to Brazil for 12 days of training at the U.S. team's World Cup base in Sao Paulo before returning to Southern California for a Feb. 1 friendly with South Korea. That gives Magee less than a month to make up for nine years of being ignored.
"I'm going to come in here and try to impress every day. I think we're all aware that anything can happen," said Magee, who will be fighting for playing time at forward against Landon Donovan, the U.S.'s all-time leading scorer; D.C. United's Eddie Johnson, who tied for the national team lead with 17 appearances in 2013; and Chris Wondolowski, who equaled the MLS single-season record with 27 goals in 2012.
"This is the ultimate competition for our country," Magee said. "The best 23 players in the country are going to go to Brazil. So it starts now for me."
There's also one other perk in being invited from Chicago to the national team's winter camp: sunshine.
"It was nice to just get outside," said Magee, who left behind a windchill of minus-25 for Southern California temperatures in the 70s. "Since Oct. 27, I've been literally inside working out in the gym and an indoor soccer facility. So getting here early and knocking the ball around is refreshing."