Chicago Fire attacker Chris Rolfe was finally secure last winter.
Back in a city in which he was comfortable after three seasons in Denmark, coming off of a season in which he led his team in goals and was named team MVP, and locked into first guaranteed multi-year contract of his MLS career, Rolfe felt confident with his standing with the Fire.
A year later, he still has a positive outlook, but "ifs" fill his offseason vocabulary after new coach and director of soccer Frank Yallop took the helm in the wake of the worst statistical season of his seven seasons in Chicago.
"There's a lot of uncertainty for everybody," Rolfe told MLSsoccer.com by phone on Friday. "We have a very, very good roster of players, particularly the outside midfielders, where I would be playing potentially. But I'm excited. That means that, if we're managed properly and Frank does what he wants to do, we're going to have a good team next year, whether I'm here or not, whether I'm starting or not, we're going to have a good team."
Rolfe scored just four goals in 31 games in 2013 after netting eight in 22 the season before. After starting up top for most of the year, the Fire acquired Designated Player forward Juan Luis Anangonó late in the season to pair with Mike Magee at forward, leaving Rolfe to fight for minutes in a crowded midfield.
"Last season was difficult for me in a number of ways," Rolfe said. "I'm proud of the way that I handled certain situations and some difficulties along the way, and I found some positives in it that I wasn't expecting to. I look back and I was as healthy as I've ever been. That's obviously a positive as a 30 year-old."
After meeting with the team as a whole last week, Yallop sat down with each Fire player individually. Rolfe didn't divulge many of the details of the conversation, but his new coach was direct in their conversation.
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"He was honest about what he wanted to do and honest about his expectations about us," Rolfe said. "In my individual talk, he was very honest and straightforward. For a guy coming into a situation, that's what you can ask of him, to be honest and straight-forward. It was nice to have a conversation like that."
The follow-up to his team MVP season in 2012 certainly wasn't what Rolfe hoped for or envisioned, although he stayed injury-free and set a career-high for games played. To the 30-year-old, that simply means he has more to improve upon, whether he's staying in Chicago or headed elsewhere.
"Obviously I have a lot I can work on and get better for next year. That's why I enjoy the offseason so much, because I can really get after and work on the things that I need to get done," he said. "It's everything. It's everything that I did last year that I was unhappy with.
"From my mentality last year, at times, to my physicality, my finishing, my first step, there are a number of things, an endless list of things that I can get better in. That really excites me going into an offseason healthy."