As if a 2009 Eastern Conference final loss to Real Salt Lake at Toyota Park wasn’t hard enough to swallow, the departure of Chris Rolfe – a true Fire original – two months earlier was also a major low point of the 2009 campaign. Rolfe took up the opportunity in September that year to prove himself in Europe with Aalborg BK in the Danish Superliga and the move was understandable.
It’s quite common for American players to grasp the first chance to play in Europe that comes their way, but it was still disappointing to lose a player who established himself as an integral member of the club during his five seasons from 2005-2009, as well as with the Chicago Fire Premier in the Premier Development League.
Rolfe certainly left Chicago on good terms with both the club and its supporters. And why not? The Ohio native scored 36 goals and tallied 18 assists in 123 appearances for the Fire, including a team high eight goals in his debut season. He was influential in helping the Fire capture the 2006 U.S. Open Cup and ensuring the club reached the playoffs during each of one of his seasons with the men in red.
The past few years have seen Fire supporters closely follow Rolfe during his endeavors overseas, but it’s been no secret that every supporter has desperately wished for him to make a return to Toyota Park. With Rolfe struggling with a lack of playing time and several injuries in Denmark, the 29-year-old was limited to just six goals and 35 appearances. Surely a move back to Chicago would be the perfect solution?
In tremendous circumstances, that wish came true on Monday, April 16th. At around 3:00 p.m., news broke on Twitter that Rolfe and the Chicago Fire had struck an agreement to bring the former #17 back home to Toyota Park. Cue hundreds of tweets from overjoyed Chicago Fire supporters and a trending Chris Rolfe in Chicago.
Apart from being a Fire legend, Chris Rolfe is exactly what the Fire need right now. The final piece to the puzzle? Not quite. The answer to the Fire’s attacking problems? Definitely.
The Fire know they can’t rely on striker Dominic Oduro to provide all of the firepower, or on Logan Pause’ back to do the scoring. Patrick Nyarko was an effective strike partner for Oduro last season, but he’s never been one for banging in the goals and this season he’s enjoyed a deeper role. Summer signing Federico Puppo has yet to really prove himself since joining the club and Orr Barouch seems to still be one for the future, meaning Rolfe is the perfect man to step up and aid Oduro in attack.
Hopefully, just maybe, we’ll see Rolfe back in a Fire uniform once again on Saturday as the club has confirmed he is available for selection against Toronto FC. I applaud members of Section 8 who made the trip yesterday afternoon to greet Rolfe and welcome him home. He’s back!
Additionally, it is surely unnecessary, but if you need a little extra something to hype you up about Rolfe’s return, here’s a quality video compilation:
The Fire also did well to put together an album of select photos from Rolfe’s memorable and successful five year stint with the club from 2005-2009.