Why Chris Rolfe didn’t get just a little more U.S. national team attention during his first go-round in MLS was always a bit of head-scratcher in my book. He’s back in the States, re-signing with the Fire on Monday, the last day MLS sides can add international players until July.
Rolfe, 29, spent the last two-play years with Aalborg of the Danish Superliga. The stats say he was a quality attacker previously at Toyota Park, contributing 40 goals and 20 assists in 149 matches across all competitions.
What the numbers aren’t telling about the Ohio native:
He never really quite settled into a position previously for the Fire, sometimes used in midfield and sometimes as a striker. Determined and blessed with a high work rate, he could be useful in the midfield, even though he was probably a better striker.
So, Rolfe’s versatility can be a real asset – even if that helps answer my question about his relative lack of national team appearances (just 10, the last in 2008). Never really settling into a position inhibits growth at any one of them.
Here’s the bigger thing to know about Rolfe: he’s mighty streaky, but when he does get on a run the man can be utterly devastating.
Rolfe was off and flying in 2007, for instance, with a goal or an assist in each of Chicago’s first six matches before a long-term injury undercut his momentum.
He came roaring back later in the year, in strong form as the Fire advanced into the Eastern Conference championship.
In 2008, a big push from Rolfe helped Chicago go surging into the playoffs with bags full of momentum. He hit for five goals and three assists over the Fire’s final five regular season contests, then supplied a goal and an assist in the return leg of Chicago’s playoff series win against New England.
The knock against Rolfe is his tendency to be nicked by injury; one such setback hurt Rolfe straight-away as he attempted to establish himself early in 2010 with Aalborg.