EDGAR ZUNIGA - Monday, April 30, 2012
After a couple of seasons with Aalborg BK, Chris Rolfe is returning home to Chicago Fire, where he made his professional debut and scored 36 goals from 2005-2009, helping the '06 team win the U.S. Open Cup.
With his contract with Aalborg expiring in 2013, Rolfe took time to give considerable thought to his future. A couple of teams showed some interest and Aalborg even approached him to renegotiate. However, after talking to friends and family, Rolfe decided it was best to return home.
"It wasn't that difficult of a decision for me," Rolfe admitted. "As soon as we found out Chicago had interest and it was a place I could come back to, it made it easier."
Rolfe also cited that his family, future, education and overall general happiness were other aspects that weighed into his choice.
Although Rolfe was bothered by injuries at the beginning of his stay in Denmark, he eventually settled in, stating that he became a better person, understanding himself a little bit more, while taking the time to think and experience a new culture.
However, no matter how far he was from home, he still kept tabs on MLS, which was not very difficult as Europe had began taking more interest in the league, especially with Thierry Henry, Rafa Marquez and David Beckham having come over to the States.
"I had fun in MLS and put a lot of work here and there were goals I wanted to achieve," Rolfe said. "I would watch the highlights and read the articles. Part of me wanted to be part of it."
In the two years Rolfe was plying his trade in Denmark, the league kept growing through expansion, revenue and fan base. Now that he is back, Rolfe will finally have an opportunity to see for himself how much has changed.
"It's more expansion. I think you have a possibility of diluting the league a little when you have expansion, but at the same time, you have a deep talent pool here for American players, and I think it's giving more guys a chance to be seen and developed in MLS," Rolfe said.
While in Europe, Rolfe was often approached with questions regarding MLS, by people who are intrigued by and interested in the league.
"Players are wondering how the league is and how professional it is, the competition, the salary. These guys are interested in coming to play here," Rolfe said. "There's a good buzz over here about MLS."
Having played in both the Superliga and MLS, Rolfe was able to notice the differences between both and how MLS compares.
"Soccer-wise, those guys understand their roles," Rolfe said regarding the Superliga. "They have been brought up on the system. It's difficult for someone from the outside to pick it up in a short time. They are rather technical.
"[MLS and Superliga] are two different leagues that are very hard to compare. But, I think the MLS, in terms of athleticism and strength and conditioning, definitely is superior," he added.
With Aalborg in the rearview mirror, Rolfe now turns his focus to reintegrating himself with the Chicago Fire, who he sees as having a good group of guys, with a locker room where things are very professional and being done the right way.
"I think that if we can get the group to come together and work with some of the young guys, this group can do very well this year," Rolfe said.
Would he ever return to Denmark or another European squad?
"Of course, if the right opportunity arose. But, I'm 29 going on 30, and right now I'm just focused on getting back here and getting healthy, getting fit and helping this team," Rolfe said. "I'm more of a mature player now. I was put through some different trials over there that helped me find out about myself and what makes me tick and how to get the most out of my abilities."