Just three weeks into his tenure at D.C. United, and Chris Rolfe is already fitting in quite nicely.
Acquired in a whirlwind deal with Chicago during the Fire’s recent visit to RFK Stadium, Rolfe has provided a unique wrinkle in a United attack that - in recent years - has been relatively one-dimensional.
“He’s such a savvy pro out there,” United head coach Ben Olsen told MLSsoccer.com after his team’s training session on Wednesday. “Technically he’s as gifted as anybody in this league. He understands the stuff that seems simple, but is not - the passing, the timing of his runs. He’s just a very very good soccer player."
Rolfe provides United with depth at multiple positions, having spent his career plying his trade as a winger, forward, and center mid. Positionally, he proves a perfect fit for a D.C. team that badly misses the services of Chris Pontius, who on Tuesday underwent hamstring surgery and is still months away from a potential return.
In D.C., Rolfe has been used primarily in a wide role, though that certainly may change given United’s lengthy schedule - later this year, the club will participate in CONCACAF Champions League play as well as the US Open Cup.
“On the field, we’re asking him to play a little bit out of his comfort zone,” United head coach Ben Olsen told MLSsoccer.com after D.C.’s training session on Wednesday morning. "He certainly understands the game out there, though I still think he’s best underneath a forward where he has more freedom. For who we are right now, though, he’s gonna be in that position - I think he’s done well."
“I think that’s a good spot for me,” Rolfe added. “I‘ve had some success in Chicago playing there, I did well there in Denmark as well. I think it’s just a matter of me finding a balance of how to get involved in the attack and also be responsible defensively.”
While United’s fortunes have changed early on in 2014 - the Club finds itself on a four-game unbeaten streak - the Fire have struggled to make headway and find themselves near the bottom of the table. Rolfe has kept a keen eye on the his former employer, and on Tuesday shared a bit of insight into their plight.
"It’s a transition time for them,” Rolfe reflected. “Frank is a great coach. It’s just gonna be a bit of a time for them to get belief in themselves - again, they have a lot of new pieces there, and the old pieces that are still around are dealing with some of the circumstances from years prior."