Tomorrow's game will feature two dynamic MLS goal scorers; one each on the two different MLS teams.
Chicago Fire's Chris Rolfe has 8 goals on the season and 2 assists this year. Seven of those goals and one of those assists have come in the last 9 games. Rolfe looks to be returning to the form Fire fans remember when the 29 year-old American forward played for Chicago between 2005-2009. Those outside of Fire Country are starting to notice too.
Sporting News' Brian Straus gave Rolfe the feature treatment in a piece published earlier today. Rolfe seems to be enjoying his homecoming and Fire fans couldn't be happier.
Rolfe needed Chicago, and Chicago needed Rolfe. In April, a month after concluding his AaB career with a retaliatory red card he said likely was the result of "a lot of pent-up frustration," the former Fire marksman was on his way home.
"It was a pretty easy transition coming back," he said.
Grantland's Graham Parker focused on Kansas City's Kei Kamara. The 28 year-old Sierra Leone native has been playing soccer in the United States since he fled a civil war in his homeland as a teenager. In MLS, Kamara bounced from Columbus to San Jose to Houston before landing in Kansas City. He fought for minutes in 2008 and coincidentally didn't take off as a player until after Rolfe departed for Europe in 2009. Kamara has been vital to KC's success scoring 30 goals and notching 15 assists in the past three seasons. Parker highlights how it almost didn't happen at all.
"Peter Vermes called me to say he'd traded for me and I told him, 'I'm not coming to Kansas City ... and what you can do is you can call the two teams in L.A., and get me to L.A. I don't have to play. I can sit there and be with my mom for the last couple of months of my contract and then go to Europe, because I'm going to try out.' And he kept going, because he's so stubborn, saying, 'Why don't you come in so we can have this conversation face to face?' So I said, 'Well it's your money. You're flying me, so if you want ... fine.' He flew me in, I trained the first day, and the guys in the locker room made me feel so welcome, so I said, 'Well I guess I'll be here for a little bit.' Three years later I'm still in Kansas City."
The second part of Parker's story on Kamara comes out tomorrow.
In a way, Rolfe and Kamara embody the style of play of their teams. Rolfe is 5 inches shorter and 40 pounds lighter than Kamara. Fire head coach Frank Klopas stresses creating space so crafty players like Rolfe can launch perfect shots on frame. The American forward isn't a pushover but he isn't going to muscle anyone off the ball much like his teammates Patrick Nyarko and Alvaro Fernandez. Kansas City head coach Peter Vermes deploys Kamara's height, strength, and speed to power up with similar teammates like CJ Sapong, Roger Espinoza, and Aurelien Collin. Kansas City often steamrolls over opponents that get in their way. It's a credit to MLS that former players (Vermes use to play for Kansas City and Klopas use to play for Chicago) have turned into good tacticians with different successful styles and the league can attract enough unique players to successfully implement contrasting styles.
At the end of 2009, only the bold or the truly eccentric would have predicted that three years later a Chicago side coached by Frank Klopas and led by Chris Rolfe would take on a KC side coached by Peter Vermes and led by Kei Kamara for first place in the Eastern Conference. Not only is it happening but it looks like Rolfe and Kamara are in place for this to be an annual story.