Chris Rolfe coming home to the Chicago Fire

Coming Home

I'm coming home
Tell the World I'm coming home
Let the rain wash away all the pain of yesterday
I know my kingdom awaits and they've forgiven my mistakes
I'm coming home, I'm coming home

I don't want to say it was a mistake for Chris Rolfe to leave for Denmark but I like the other words here. Rolfe departed after the 2009 season when the Fire came within a penalty kick of making it to the MLS Cup Final. Between 2005-2009, Rolfe and the Chicago Fire averaged 1.47 points per game. That's just a bit off the 1.50 points per game the Chicago Fire have historically raked up. Rolfe doesn't know what it's like to play for the Chicago Fire and miss the playoffs. Rolfe knows what it's like to play for the Chicago Fire and win a U.S. Open Cup.

What Rolfe Brings to the Table

Chris Rolfe gives Chicago a second legitimate striker. No offense to Patrick Nyarko, Federico Puppo, Orr Barouch or any other forwards in the rotation, but Rolfe should return to Chicago playing on a higher level. In his five seasons with the Fire between 2005-2009, Rolfe scored 36 goals and provided 18 assists. His numbers significantly dropped off in Denmark (6 goals in 36 appearances over 2 seasons) but so did his playing time. If you think the Danish league is on the same level as MLS, you are sorely mistaken. Rolfe turned 29 years old in January. He still has plenty left in the tank. The combination of getting regular minutes, playing in a comfortable environment, and playing at a somewhat lower level of soccer might even lead Rolfe to increase his 1 goal per every 3.5 game average he established for the Fire before.

Changes to the Offense

Rolfe's return should push Patrick Nyarko from the forward position. We recently looked at Nyarko being a bit of a miscast up top. It's a lock to have Grazzini; Oduro, Rolfe in the '1-2' of the 4-3-1-2 formation. This leaves Pavel Pardo, Logan Pause, Patrick Nyarko, Marco Pappa, Rafael Robayo, and Daniel Paladini all fighting for the three midfield spots in the '3' of the 4-3-1-2. Three of those six will see the bench every game barring injury or a change in tactics. That's not a bad thing at all. Pardo looks like he could use the rest this year. Nyarko and Pappa alongside Pardo would give the Fire a more offensive lineup than Pappa and Pause have. Fantastic rotations should await the team if Klopas can use them properly.

Domestic Stability?

One of the best parts of Rolfe signing is the fact that he is a domestic player. Sebastian Grazzini, Pavel Pardo, Arne Friedrich, Rafael Robayo, Paolo Tornaghi, Federico Puppo - all six of these players have been big acquisitions dating back to mid-July of 2011. Along with Marco Pappa, they represent 7 of the 8 international spots the Fire currently have. Chris Rolfe can be a high level MLS player for at least a couple of years and not take up one of these valuable international slots. In the short-term, this also means that the team can still pick up a player like Alex de Lima or someone even better.

Another factor to Rolfe's domestic status is he is more likely to stay with the Fire. Just look at international players like Josip Mikulic, Yamith Cuesta, Bratislav Ristic, Gaston Puerari, Diego Chaves, Collins John, etc. Talented to decent players that moved on after a year. All the Fire internationals outside of Pappa have been here for less than a year. Rolfe has very little reason to leave and a lot of reasons to stay for good.

Overall

Last summer, head coach Frank Klopas said it was time for the Chicago Fire to return to what they used to be. This is a literal and figurative move that lives up to that claim. Let the rain wash away all the pain of two seasons that have been like yesterday. The kingdom awaits. Chris Rolfe is coming home.

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