This video preview of tonight’s playoff opener from Major League Soccer’s content producers starts with Chris Rolfe’s role for Chicago. And that’s a heckuva good place to start, because like we told you previously, as Rolfe goes, so goes the Fire offense.
They talk about Rolfe playing as a second forward beneath target striker Sherjill MacDonald. But that’s just it; Rolfe’s role has been in evolution. As teams began identifying ways to keep the Fire’s top attacking threat and primary linking conduit off the ball, the Fire needed to adjust his positioning on the field.
When Rolfe was more successful in September, he was playing deeper, closer to his own goal, picking up balls out of the midfield and then turning quickly to spring the counter attack.
As teams prioritized a quicker closure of passing lanes into Rolfe once possession was claimed by the Fire, he moved further up the field, working in closer connection to MacDonald. Last week against D.C. United, Rolfe looked more like a second forward in a 4-4-2 as opposed to the central playmaker in a 4-2-3-1 that we saw before.
Since Houston seems likely to use two holding midfielders in a 4-4-2 – similar to the way D.C. United set up fairly successfully in a 1-1 draw at Toyota Park last weekend – expect to see Rolfe in the more advanced positioning.
Adam Moffat and Ricardo Clark will be too much for the smaller Rolfe to content with in the midfield, so his best chances of success will be in working the connections closer to MacDonald, moving in and out of the advanced channels while forcing those Dynamo central midfielders and center backs to make choices and communicate on locating Chicago’s primary threat.
Here is the MLSSoccer.com video preview: