Rolfe excited to be back with Fire


Rolfe excited to be back with Fire

Still battling the effects of jet lag, Chris Rolfe returned to the Toyota Park practice field Wednesday and was excited to be there.

"Only four players are left from the (Fire) team that I last played on," said Rolfe, "but it was still good to see some familiar faces. Just driving into the stadium I got some butterflies, and that was a good feeling."

Rolfe was one of the Fires most popular players from 2005-08, when he scored 40 goals and added 20 assists in 149 matches across all competitions. He was the clubs Golden Boot winner in both 2005 and 2008 before switching to Aalborg BK of the Danish SuperLiga, where he spent the last three seasons.

The stay in Denmark wasnt all bad, but a coaching change with that club coupled with a touch of loneliness spurred Rolfe to get back to the club that drafted him in the third round of the Major League Soccer SuperDraft straight out of the University of Dayton.

"I was there by myself, said Rolfe of the Denmark experience," and you have a lot of time to think over there when youre alone. I reflected on a lot of things regarding the future, the past, my passion. I talked to my agent and my family, and we thought the best decision -- if we could make it happen -- was to get back to Chicago."

This wasnt a case of a spurned player looking for a way out of a bad situation.

"Some teams were interested in me over there, and my club, Aalborg was trying to sign me, said Rolfe. "Overall, going there was good for me on and off the field. It helped me develop as a person and as a player. I had a difficult time there with my injury, but still I wouldnt have changed a thing."

Rolfe developed tendinitis in his hamstring in his first season in Denmark. It bothered him for 11 months, and while he was struggling with his health the club changed coaches.

"I learned some things, said Rolfe. "The one who brought me there was great."

The coach who took over was different. Rolfe started in Denmark playing up top. After the coaching change he was moved to the right side. "Good for a learning experience" was how Rolfe summed up the whole Denmark scenario.

He was a star in Major League Soccer when he left the Fire for the European lifetstyle.

"There were so many variables," he said. "When I was younger I wanted to see if I was capable of playing at that level."

He pretty much was, though six goals in 32 matches over three seasons isnt outstanding. Playing in Europe led to Rolfe getting more callups to the U.S. national team, though the first of his 11 caps came when he was still a member of the Fire.

Aalborgs stadium seated about 12,000 and was sold out for about half of the matches, so Rolfe figures to play before bigger crowds in Bridgeview than he did in Europe. The style of soccer will change, too.

"With Aalborg it was more tactical, slower, said Rolfe. "In Major League Soccer its more athletic and fast-paced -- sometimes to a fault. In Denmark its more organized, in a way."

Fire coach Frank Klopas, who played in Greece early in his career, knows all about that. He thinks Rolfes experience there will help the Fire now.

"I know he can help our team," said Klopas. "Were thrilled to have him, and his attitude is fantastic.

Rolfe will be available for selection in Saturdays road match against FC Toronto, but Klopas was non-committal about whether Rolfe would play or even where he might be on the field as the season progresses. It seems likely hell be paired up top with Dominic Oduro, with Patrick Nyarko playing on the right side again. For now, though, Rolfe has to improve his fitness.

"Its pretty good, and I still have my quick feet," he said, "but I got tired during training."

Klopas, though, liked what he saw in Rolfes first day back. "Hes looked good -- very clean feet, very composed around the goal, very quick," said Klopas.

By Saturday the jet lag should be gone. After four-five days of negotiations between MLS and Aalborg were concluded Rolfe boarded a direct flight from Copenhagen to Chicago. The nine-hour flight arrived on Monday night, and Rolfe was greeted at OHare by several members of Section 8 supporters.

"That was a great surprise because the news (of his return to the Fire) hadnt been released when I got to the airport," said Rolfe."Ive got goals left from my first stint here. I think this will be a good fit."

Bears get Jay Cutler back as QB competition with Brian Hoyer fades to black

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Bears get Jay Cutler back as QB competition with Brian Hoyer fades to black

If there was any quarterback “controversy” swirling about the Bears – and one likely will be after this season – this one is safely resolved with Jay Cutler cleared by team medical staff to return from his injured thumb and begin practicing this week, all of this about the time that Brian Hoyer was undergoing surgery for his broken right arm suffered in the loss to the Green Bay Packers.

Whether Cutler would have been re-installed as the starter had Hoyer remained healthy, and throwing for 300 yards per game, is a moot point now. Indications were that Hoyer would not lose the job if he was playing well.

But now, “obviously Jay’s our starter,” said coach John Fox. “He was injured, not permitted to play medically. And now that he’s healed he’s back to being our starter.

“That’s really the facts and kind of what happened and where we’re at now. So I don’t know that there was a ‘competition’ to speak of. Just like there wasn’t a competition when Matt Barkley went in [at Green Bay]; he was our only quarterback left. So it’s good to have Jay back. We’re excited to have him back and hopefully he can remain healthy.”

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Team chemisty is difficult if not impossible to gauge from the outside. And whether teammates prefer Cutler or Hoyer personally is only marginally relevant anyway.

But Cutler was voted an offensive co-captain (along with Alshon Jeffery) and the offense ostensibly is more dangerous with Cutler and his deep-threat capability. Still, the Bears scored just 21 points in the combined seven quarters behind Cutler, while reaching 17-17-23-16 in whole games under Hoyer.

Cutler’s return is expected to have a ripple effect on the rest of the team.“We don’t really play into that much,” said center Cody Whitehair. “[Whoever’s] back there, we’re going to try and do our best to protect them and do our thing on the run.

“But you know, it is nice to have him back. He’s been a leader on the sideline even while he wasn’t playing and it’ll be nice to have him back out there.”

Badgers' leading tackler Jack Cichy out for rest of season


Badgers' leading tackler Jack Cichy out for rest of season

Wisconsin trails Nebraska by two in the loss column in the Big Ten West Division standings and has a huge showdown with the top-10 Huskers on Saturday night in Madison.

But the road to Indy just got a little tougher, the Badgers announcing Monday that leading tackler Jack Cichy will miss the remainder of the season with a torn pectoral muscle.

Cichy had 60 tackles on the campaign as part of a world-class Wisconsin defense that ranks fourth in the country in scoring (14.3 points allowed a game) and ninth in yardage (300.6 yards allowed a game). His seven tackles for loss rank second on the team, and his 1.5 sacks rank third. He also forced a pair of fumbles in his seven games.

The Badgers have been plagued by injuries in the linebacking corps this season. Cichy's season-ending injury is the second that unit has experienced this year, as Chris Orr was knocked out for the year following an injury in the season-opening win over LSU. T.J. Edwards has been working his way back to full strength after suffering a foot injury this summer. And Vince Biegel missed a couple games with injury but returned to the lineup this past weekend, registering one tackle in the win over Iowa.

The Badgers, ranked 11th in the most recent AP poll, play host to the No. 7 Huskers on Saturday night at Camp Randall Stadium.