The Chris Rolfe Debate: How Should the Fire use him?

As I mentioned in a comment, the debate going on about what Chris Rolfe's role should be for the remainder of the Fire's season has intrigued me.  To say the least, the forward/midfielder has had an interesting start to the season.  

Rolfe's year to date has seen him make only 5 starts in 13 matches, score 2 game winning goals, and log the best goals scored per minutes played ratio on the team.  He has played in a variety of positions including, striker, winger, and center midfielder.  What makes this interesting though is that all of this instability in Rolfe's season comes after a year in which he led the Fire in goals and made 23 starts.

Now, there has been a little debate going on as to what Fire Head Coach Denis Hamlett should do in order to maximize Rolfe's skills.  Should he be used as a super-sub or a starter?  Should he play as a midfielder or a forward?

Personally, I think that Rolfe should be used as a starting forward alongside Brian McBride.  

Here's why:
1 - Rolfe has been one of the Fire's best goal-scoring threats all year
As I mentioned earlier, Rolfe has the Fire's best goals scored per minutes played ratio.  He has tallied 3 goals in his 567 minutes, which puts his rate slightly ahead of Brian McBride's.  

Also, Rolfe's 12 shots on goal give him by far the best shot-on-goal per minutes played ratio on the Fire.  Really, this one isn't even close.  Patrick Nyarko (who is second in this category) has 14 shots on goal (only 2 more than Rolfe) in 854 minutes (almost 300 more than Rolfe, that's over 3 full games worth of minutes).  This is an important statistic for me, because shots-on-goal can really create chances.  At the very least a shot on target puts pressure on the keeper and at best forces a corner kick or even a rebound chance.

Now, I know that a lot more goes into soccer than statistics, but I believe that these stats really prove Rolfe's worth to the Fire.  

2 - Rolfe has played better as a Forward than as a Midfielder
As some of you noted in various comments, Rolfe has looked a tad lost in his role as a midfielder.  Forward is certainly Rolfe's natural position and from what he's shown, he asserts himself into matches best when he plays up top.  Rolfe has scored 2 of his 3 goals from the forward position and I believe the McBride-Rolfe tandem has given opposition defense a lot of trouble.

3 - Patrick Nyarko's (and the Fire's...) offensive woes
Although Nyarko is enjoying a solid season (you could even call it a breakout year for the young forward) his game has tailed off a little as of late.  He did well in the Houston match, putting himself in great positions, but he lacked the finishing touch that is necessary for a forward to have.  I think that at this point in the year, Rolfe (and the experience he brings) would serve the Fire a little bit better than Nyarko. 

Also, with the Fire experiencing some offensive woes as of late, why not change the lineup a little bit?  A new look certainly couldn't hurt the Fire attack, which has been shutout two games in a row.


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  • I find it plain mind boggling that the teams best scorer from 2008 has only started 5 games with only 1 or 2 as an actual forward. We'll see if Hammy agrees with you and finally sticks Rolfe at forward, I sure hope so.

  • The decisions made with regard to Chris' playing time and position never seem to make any sense to me. If I were coach (that's a frightful concept), I'd park Chris in the starting lineup as an attacker and just watch the goals roll in.

    I like Nyarko, but aside from the two goal game earlier, he hasn't shown me enough to think that he should be starting over Rolfe.

  • I think Rolfe has to start up top it can even be a christmas tree look

    blanco - rolfe
    Pappa - pause - Thor
    sega - conde - soumare - ward

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