BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – Chicago Fire veteran Chris Rolfe has enjoyed the healthiest season of his seven-year career.
Unfortunately, that hasn't been enough to replicate his 2012 team MVP season, in which he was hampered by an ankle injury but scored eight goals in 22 games. This year, he's only scored four in 28 games.
“This is the healthiest I've ever been in my life, which is crazy because [it’s] my worst season statistically,” Rolfe said. “[It's] a little bit [refreshing], but then it's disheartening because then I'm like, 'I should be doing more with it. I actually had a full season.'”
But statistics haven't necessarily told the whole story, Rolfe and teammates contend.
And sliding back to the midfield during the last two games – coming on in the 70th minute against Columbus and at halftime last Saturday against Montreal – Rolfe has been comfortable and effective.
“I think he changed the game for us on Saturday,” Fire forward Mike Magee said. “Chris is a good pro, and he's a great finisher. And as any forward knows, you go through lulls where the goal seems a little smaller than it is, which is fine. He's still committed to helping the team win, and we're going to need him big-time.”
Part of the reason for that, teammate Patrick Nyarko said, is that Rolfe has been able to spend more time on the ball as a midfielder. Rolfe agrees that having the ball has been crucial to his confidence.
“I don't think it's just in the midfield spot, I think, I've said this over and over again, he needs more of the ball to get his confidence,” Nyarko said. “It's our job to find him with the ball most of the time. When he plays up top, he doesn't get most of the balls. So the couple that he misses, he loses confidence.
"We need to do a better job of finding him, no matter how many balls he misses. That'll build up his confidence, and I think the last two weeks, he's finding more of the ball outside, and he was unbelievable [Saturday].”
- READ: Chicago Fire's Mike Magee adjusting to being marked man in breakout year: "That's how it's going to be"
Rolfe has been thrown into a five-man competition for a starting outside midfield spot, which also includes Nyarko, Dilly Duka, Joel Lindpere and Alex, all of whom have been consistent starters at some point this season.
After spending 65 minutes at the position over two weeks, Rolfe is happy with his performance in limited time.
“That's not saying too much, but yeah, the last few games, I guess I've gotten in pretty good spots when the other team's tired, and it's easy for me,” Rolfe told MLSsoccer.com after Saturday's game.
“It's not like I've been playing bad this year, it's just, in front of the goal I haven't been converting, so for me playing in the midfield, it's fine, because I'm more or less in form in the midfield. Up top, I've just had trouble scoring this year.”