Chris Rolfe returned to full training today for the first time since injuring his ankle in his second practice session with the club on April 19. He traveled with the club to Columbus and worked out with trainer Tony Jouaux before the game on Saturday but wasn't quite ready to go without a complete training session under his belt. He's probably not fit enough to start but he should be available for selection this weekend in New England. "I feel pretty good. I've been working hard trying to get my fitness up a little bit and get my touch back. It's looking good," said Rolfe. While he's eager to return as soon as possible he's still not completely pain free but available if called upon. "It's doing quite a bit better. It's still an issue to talk with the (training staff) about but it's feeling pretty good," he said.
Frank Klopas will be cautious not to rush him into heavy minutes but it appears he will consider using him against the Revolution. "He's out here and he's training. When he starts off there's still some discomfort but that's something that's going to go away so you just have to deal with it," said Klopas. "He's pushing himself from a fitness standpoint so he's going to be available, obviously the field is turf so we have to put that into consideration too but it's good that's he's going to be available for us."
The Fire coach cited Rolfe's importance in the team's ability to add another dimension to the attack that has been largely missing this season. "It's not only the scoring but it's his ability the way he moves off the ball," said Klopas. "Technically he's a very different player, now you can play to his feet, you can play into space, you can combine him with other players, and he can beat guys off the dribble. We just want to make sure since it's a long season that we have him healthy and ready once he's back playing that's he good for us to the end because he's an important part of our team and we need him to be healthy," he continued.
Having Rolfe available for selection will surely add another weapon to the arsenal at Klopas' disposal and allows him to explore different options with player combinations on the field. The question is can he stay healthy the rest of the way?
USOC Loss - "Embarrassing"
Klopas wasn't happy with the outcome and the play on the field in Tuesday night's loss to fourth division PDL side Michigan Bucks but he also wasn't enamored with facility and condition of the turf in Pontiac, Michigan. "(We) had some guys that you couldn't play because of the turf," said Klopas comparing it to an indoor facility he played at in Highland Park during his youth. "The sidelines were one step and you hit the wall," he continued. "This is not an excuse why we lost but we should never put an MLS team to play there. You should be outside on a field. Even on a dirt field. A regular sized field where there's not an issue."
That being said, the line-up used in that match should have been enough to advance past a PDL side. "You can put any ten guys on the field and we should win that game," said Klopas leaving further discussion about the playing conditions to the gathered media at training but not before making another point about his feelings toward the "Ultimate Soccer Arenas" in Pontiac. "(The field) That's for you to be writing about not for me. It's really embarrassing that you put a professional team to play there. For us, we respect the Open Cup it's a great tournament but I think moments like that are special where you go to different markets and people are able to see a professional team but you don't see soccer there. That's the part that's a shame," he continued. "For us we respect the Open Cup and what can you say, we're all disappointed and we have to move forward and think about this game (New England) because now the goals that we set before the season - there's one big one (left) now to look forward to and that's to make the playoffs and our focus is on that," said Klopas.
Klopas was not happy with the club's play against Michigan adding that it was discussed at a team meeting this morning before training but the club needs to move forward and prepare for the remainder of the league season. "You just have to move on. It's unfortunate because it's a tournament that within five games you win a cup but things happen and you have to move on and move past," said the coach. "You're going to have setbacks but the most important thing is how you react to them. No one's going to judge you on how many setbacks you had, but the important thing is to come out strong and react in a positive way that's all you can do," he said.
Line Up Selections
Klopas also discussed the motives behind some of the line up choices made during the last week including the USOC match this past Tuesday. "There were some guys that you'd like to rest. It was very difficult to play (Tuesday) because the risk was there and if you have an injury long term that's an unfortunate thing. I felt bad because Jalil and Austin had played a lot of minutes and Austin has a shoulder that's been bothering him so that's obviously a concern and we have to keep an eye on that. After this game we have a good break where can get everyone healthy and get Arne back," said Klopas. He added that he expects Friedrich to be available for the next home match on June 17 against New York. "You've got to rely on the group and when certain guys get opportunities. That's why you have a team. Sometimes you've got to make decisions to keep guys off the field or you might lose them for the rest of the season," said Klopas in reference to the line up selection.
Influential playmaker Sebastian Grazzini was held out of both the Columbus match and the USOC match for "rest" as a precaution. "There were some issues but there weren't any injuries. He's training today and he'll be ready to go," said Klopas when asked about Grazzini's status this weekend. The Argentine midfielder did participate in full training on Thursday. It seems the coaching staff did not want to risk injury to Grazzini on the turf in Michigan after getting an up close look at the conditions.
When asked about seven MLS squads losing to lower division teams on Tuesday night Klopas responded, "I don't know about the other teams. I'm just concerned with my team. I don't feel good and I'm very disappointed". Were there any regrets looking back on the USOC match? "Regrets? Yes. We should have never played on a field like that. If I would have known that, I would not have played and put my players in a position where they can get hurt because it wasn't soccer," he said.