Finally the Fire can see how Chris Rolfe might perform in game situations.
Rolfe was no stranger to the Fire when the club signed him. He is the second-leading goal-scorer in franchise history, and he opted to return to Chicago after a three-year stint playing in Germany.
Two days into training with the Fire, Rolfe went down with a sprained left ankle. It took six weeks for the injury to heal, but Rolfe went through a full workout on Thursday and coach Frank Klopas said hell be available for selection in Saturdays road match against the New England Revolution.
The Fire needs the explosive striker after disappointing losses in the last two matches. The five-game road trip that the team took last week was a disaster a 2-1 loss at Columbus on Saturday in Major League Soccer play followed by a stoppage time defeat to the Michigan Bucks of the Premier Development League in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on Tuesday.
In retrospect, the Fire should have refused to play the Open Cup match in an indoor facility. Indoor soccer isnt the sport the Fire plays, and injuries can be factor in such matches. The Fire has had enough of those, with Rolfe and Arne Friedrich the primary examples.
Friedrich, the veteran German defender, remains out with a right hamstring strain and is targeting his return for the June 17 home match against the New York Red Bulls. He has plenty of time to rest until then, since the Fire and the rest of MLS goes on break while international matches take over the world soccer calendar. Only midfielder Marco Pappa will be playing games during that period, which begins after the New England match.
Pappa joined the Guatemala national team last week and missed the Open Cup match. He wont play against New England, either, as Guatemala a perfect 6-0-0 with 19 goals scored and only three allowed was terrific in the last round of World Cup qualifying.
In the present international period, he has a friendly with Costa Rica in Guatemala City on Friday night, then the first two matches of CONCACAF Group A play Wednesday, June 6, at Jamaica and a home match June 12 against the United States.
The only other Fire player away during the international period is Victor Pineda, who will train with the U.S. under-20 squad.
As for the New England match, the Fire (5-4-3) will be bolstered by more than just Rolfes return. Sebastian Grazzini, who didnt play at Columbus or in the Open Cup match, is expected back. Klopas opted to rest him, but he went through a full workout on Thursday before the Fire departed for New England.
Not everyone else is at full strength, but Patrick Nyarko, Dan Gargan and Dominic Oduro will be available. Nyarko had to take shots of the pain reliever Toradol in order to play in the last 10 games. Hes had hip, hamstring and rib problems. Gargan (left foot) and Oduro (hamstring) say their ailments are improving.
New England (4-7-1) also had a tough week, losing 3-2 at D.C. United on Saturday before being eliminated from the Open Cup with a Tuesday loss. With 18 points the Fire is tied in points with fourth-place Columbus in the Eastern Conference of MLS. New England is in seventh place.