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:
Reports out of Turkey say Newcastle United have finally struck the transfer market for a new No. 10.
[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]
Aksam reports that Rafa Benitez got the Magpies hierarchy to activate a near $12 million release clause for Besiktas midfielder Oguzhan Ozyakup.
The 25-year-old was part of Arsenal’s youth set-up until 2012, making two League Cup appearances in 2011-12 before moving to Besiktas.
Dutch-born Ozyakup is 35-times capped with a goal for Turkey, twice captaining the Crescent-Stars.
Ozyakup lost playing time to Talisca this season, and registered just four assists in 24 appearances. In 219 appearances for Besiktas, he’s posted 27 goals with 50 assists.
Like the move for Newcastle?
Manchester United and Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku has an inspiring and emotional post in The Players’ Tribune which tugs at the heart strings and explains his competitive fire.
[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]
Lukaku talks about how his family’s poverty caused him to become a fierce competitor in the hopes of meeting his dreams head-on and providing for his family.
The Belgian, 25, scored twice in his side’s 3-0 World Cup-opening win over Panama earlier this week, and is now far removed from his youth, but he tells his story as if it lives fresh in his mind.
From The Players’ Tribune:
There were even times when my mum had to “borrow” bread from the bakery down the street. The bakers knew me and my little brother, so they’d let her take a loaf of bread on Monday and pay them back on Friday.
Lukaku also talks about racism in football, his debut for Anderlecht, and that aforementioned competitive drive. It’s 100 percent worth the read.
West Ham has reportedly set a club record with its latest signing under new manager Manuel Pellegrini.
Issa Diop is the player, the 21-year-old Toulouse captain and center back costing the Irons around $29 million.
[ MORE: Arsenal signs Leno ]
Diop scored three goals with an assist and eight yellow cards in 31 Ligue 1 matches this season, giving the young defender 95 apps, six goals, three assists, and 23 yellows since debuting with the senior team at 18.
Capped by France at every level below the senior team, Diop’s 2.2 interceptions per game ranked sixth in Ligue 1.
Toulose finished 18th in Ligue 1, but won its promotion/relegation playoff to stay in the French top flight.
“I am very happy to sign for such a historic, English club, and I hope to show my best here. I am a very ambitious player and West Ham is a very ambitious club, as we’ve seen with the appointment of the new coach. I hope to help the team win lots of games and make the fans happy.”
In the third episode of Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show, England pulls out a massive win while VAR finds its way into the World Cup spotlight.
[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]
There will be plenty more to come over the next few weeks, with the show coming via the Men In Blazers.
Click play on the video above to watch the first episode in full.