BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – When teammates and coaches are asked what improvements Chicago Fire forward Chris Rolfe has made since he left for Denmark three years ago, some form of the word “maturity” inevitably comes out of their mouths.
Rolfe has always had the quick feet that allowed him to surprise Columbus goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum in the 23rd minute of last Saturday’s 2-1 win, floating a shot from outside the penalty area after taking just half a step with the ball. But Gonzalo Segares has seen Rolfe’s understanding of the game, his movement without the ball and his vision of the field improve after two-and-a-half seasons with Aalborg BK.
“As you get older, you see everything a little bit slower,” Segares told MLSsoccer.com. “I think his mobility has improved a lot. He’s more mature with the ball, and with the way he makes runs. ... He’s playing at the best level I’ve ever seen him at.”
Rolfe is scoring in much higher volume than he ever did before, tallying eight goals in 17 games, just one off of his career high. But he claims that he doesn’t know what his Fire colleagues mean when they say his play has matured.
“No idea,” Rolfe said. “I’m closer to the goal than I was. That’s it.”
Rolfe won’t admit that his form is at its best, maintaining that there are plenty of aspects of his game on which he needs to improve.
Teammates contend otherwise.
GOAL: Rolfe scores his 7th of 2012
“He does the simple things and he makes the simple things look so easy, like the two strikes he had [Saturday],” midfielder Patrick Nyarko told MLSsoccer.com. “He’s matured a lot. He thinks he’s not explosive enough, even though I think otherwise. If he can get better, just imagine how it would be. He’s extremely good.”
After playing on a 2009 team that included big-name forwards Brian McBride and Cuauhtémoc Blanco, Nyarko said Rolfe has stepped up as a leader of a 2012 team that is fighting for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
When he brushes off questions about his improved form as if they’re misinformed, all his teammates can do is laugh.
“You hear those things and they make you smile,” captain Logan Pause said. “What a great guy to have on your team. He’s such a humble kid that he’s not going to gloat or comment that he’s doing anything of greatness, although us as teammates, we know the kind of player that he is, and he’s been in fantastic form.”