The last time I began a post by claiming to have “exclusive access” to breaking news, I didn’t exactly have the exclusive access I believed I did. While I was privy to the news that Chris Rolfe would be leaving MLS to join Danish side Aalborg BK before the public announcement, the news was actually broken first through another media outlet. Which is understandable, considering nobody in their right mind should exclusively announce something so monumental on a site that was only averaging 10 visits per day at the time.
Flash forward to today, and after two successful years abroad — and WSOTP now receiving moderately higher traffic — we again find Mr. Rolfe at a crossroads. With his AaB contract due to expire in December, the Kettering, Ohio native has a decision to make once more… and this time, I actually do have the exclusive.
On the edge of your seat yet? Good.
Speculation on the interwebs over the last few months has centered around whether or not Rolfe would extend his stay with Aalborg, get snapped up by Danish rivals Brøndby, or wind up with another European side, among other various predictions. In a recent interview with MLS, Rolfe was clearly keeping his options open:
“I don’t really have a plan,” he admitted. “It’s more about the opportunities that come up and evaluating them. I’m up for anything, really. I wouldn’t rule out MLS at all.”
And it’s that last sentence which has had fans of the Chicago Fire in a frenzy ever since. Long a favorite of Fire supporters — dating back to his days playing for the Fire Reserves in the PDL — there’s been a large contingent calling for Rolfe’s return pretty much since the day he departed for pastures anew. A return from Europe to Chicago for their former hero would be akin to the second coming to many of the devoted followers in the Church of the Fire.
Well ready your flares Section 8, and dust off that old #17 kit while you’re at it…
It’s with great pleasure that I can exclusively announce that Chris Rolfe is returning to the Chicago Fire.
Rolfe informed me by email that he’ll be rejoining his former club effective April 15th, meaning he will be joining up with the team on the last day of the MLS transfer window.
There had been concerns that Chris wouldn’t even be able to rejoin the Fire even if he did return stateside, as it was expected that he’d be subject to the league’s allocation process for returning American internationals. With Chicago currently sitting eight back in the MLS Allocation Rankings, the outcome would likely be that a returning Rolfe would end up in the hands of another club. But taking a closer look at the MLS Roster Rules, there’s a nice loophole that left the Fire in pole position to re-acquire their former star.
Thanks to Rule IV: Right of First Refusal, Chicago maintained first right to add Rolfe to their roster for two reasons:
- In the event an out-of-contract player signs with MLS, “a team retains the right of first refusal to the player indefinitely only if attempts were made to re-sign the player”. So since the Fire offered a contract extension to Rolfe before he signed with AaB, they still have first dibs on him, but only because…
- If a team receives allocation money as a result of a player’s transfer outside of MLS, “the team does not retain a right of first refusal.” Luckily, the Fire did not receive any compensation from MLS for Rolfe’s departure.
And thanks to that loophole, Rolfe will be returning to the side where he’s already made a significant mark. He tallied 36 times and registered 18 assists in 123 regular season appearances during his first stint in Chicago. That’s not to mention his knack for contributing when it really counts, such as his 4 goals and 3 assists in 13 playoff matches. With all of that in mind, you can see why the fans have wanted him back for so long.
Chris, it seems, is also looking forward to his homecoming, and had this to say about his time in Denmark coming to a close, and the upcoming return to his old stomping grounds at Toyota Park:
“The past two years have provided a great life experience for me, but I couldn’t be more excited to be coming back to Chicago. My heart is with this club. I want to help this team win and accomplish our goals and give something back to our fans who have continued to support me even while I’ve been away.”
I think it’s fair to say that we’re all glad to have him back too.