Magee is a Saint Paul native who attended St. Paul Academy before leaving the state for college. But Magee was drawn back home by soccer, joining the Minnesota Thunder when it was a semi-pro team in 1992. He also holds a masters degree in public policy from the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School. Magee played nine full seasons with the Thunder, becoming the team’s all time top scorer. He was also loaned to MLS clubs for three seasons.
After his playing career ended, Magee joined the Thunder technical staff and took over as head coach in 2006 after Buzz Lagos retired. Magee led the Thunder for three seasons, before his career in management took him to an assistant coaching position in Portland, where he accompanied the club to MLS, then to D.C., where he again worked as an assistant.
“After the Thunder,” he says, “I realized that I needed to get better.”
Magee comes back to Minnesota a different man in a different soccer environment. “After the Thunder,” he says, “I realized that I needed to get better.” And if he wanted to get better, Magee knew he needed to get out of Minnesota. He joined the Portland Timbers before they joined MLS and stayed with the club until 2014 when he moved to join DC United.
“Minnesota is home,” Magee says, but this isn’t a retirement move. In fact, he makes a great effort to emphasize that leaving DC United’s set-up was an extremely difficult decision. “I was choosing between an A+ in DC and an A++ in Minnesota.” The opportunity to build something in Minnesota was just too good an opportunity to pass up, “I’ve always felt like a builder and I feel like finally Minnesota has an organization to match the fans and the talented people here involved in soccer.”
“This is a proper soccer market now. The Minnesota I came back to was massively better than the one I left.”
In the time since Magee left, soccer in Minnesota changed as well. In 2008, he says, “guys were changing out of the back of their cars” before practice. “I was very well aware of what’s gone on in Minnesota, but when I got here and not only saw the bricks and mortar of what they’re doing, but also the excitement… this is a proper soccer market now. The Minnesota I came back to was massively better than the one I left.”
When Magee left, he was working under his friend Manny Lagos, then Director of Soccer Operations for the Minnesota Thunder. The sting of that failure remains for Magee: “I have a very good, long-standing relationship with Manny and the fact that we weren’t successful working together in 2007-8 affected us both. I’ve always believed in him, I think he’s always believed in me, but we both felt like we failed at that point. The thing that never failed was our friendship.”
But Amos Magee’s return is not just about getting the band back together. Rather, after Magee left, he helped build two clubs that became powerhouses of MLS. Now, he is coming back with the hopes of building something unique and exciting in Minnesota.
Magee is the one to thank for calling up Lagos and telling him about this young guy named Miguel Ibarra who Portland didn’t have the space for at the time. Likewise, Magee tells the story of another player who he believed in and Lagos came to believe in: Kyle Altman.
Amos had coached Altman in the Maccabiah Games in 2007 (think the Jewish Olympics) and believed in him. Lagos eventually brought Altman to the NSC Minnesota Stars in 2009 and Altman went on to Captain the team to the championship in 2011. A player like Altman, Magee says, makes him think about character and what you really look for in players: “We talk a lot about what you’re looking for in certain players and it isn’t always how fast, strong, and technical, a lot of times it’s how they act off the field. We both found common ground in that kid.”
For all the talk of value and assets that both Amos and Manny engage in, they talk about finding players who can make something exciting in Minnesota. And though they admit expansion can make for some difficult years of losing, they’re determined to put Magee’s experience to work.
Correction: The original article incorrectly stated that Lagos fired Magee when the latter was head coach of Minnesota Thunder.