By JEFFREY KRAUSE
Chris Rolfe has yet to see the gameday roster for the Chicago Fire due to an ankle injury he suffered after returning to the club following a stint of more than two years in Denmark. That could be changing in the immediate future, though.
Rolfe is nearing his return to the playing field, something that may happen as soon as Saturday's match against the Columbus Crew.
"He's out here striking the ball and moving around which is a good sign," Fire coach Frank Klopas said. "It's a matter of days before he's available to start training full-on with the team. That's a very positive sign.
"He could be available (Saturday) depending on how he progresses in the next couple days. I feel a bit bad for him, because he came in so eager to step on the field and be back playing in front of Fire fans that have missed him for a while. He's worked very hard."
Rolfe, who has dealt with numerous injuries throughout his career, also expressed his desire to get on the field for Chicago as soon as possible, but he is trusting the discretion of the training staff as to when that might be.
"We've been working hard for the last four days with the ball," Rolfe said. "I'm still day-to-day, but Tony (Jouaux, Chicago's strength and conditioning coach) has a plan, and we're progressing everyday so I don't over do it."
Rolfe also talked about the tradeoff between forming chemistry with his teammates off the pitch due to his injury, as opposed to coming in and finding cohesion through gameplay.
"This time has been good for me in terms of getting to know the guys a little bit more without the pressure of the on-the-field stuff, but with that being said, I still would've preferred to have come in and play right off the bat," Rolfe said. "Of course I was more fit then and I wasn't nursing an injury, so all that would have helped the transition for me."
CLUB LOOKS TO END STRUGGLES VS. FCD
Coming off a weekend loss to the Portland Timbers, the Fire continue their busy stretch against FC Dallas on Wednesday in the latest installment of the Brimstone Cup.
"They're a lot different than Portland," Klopas said. "They look to build out play, where Portland has a very direct style of play. It's more of an elaborate build up where they like to keep the ball on the ground. They're very good on set pieces also, so that's another area that we have to be very alert and focused, and do a better job than we did last game."
Chicago has had issues against FC Dallas, going 0-5-1 at home since moving to Toyota Park in 2006. Klopas did not downplay their struggles, or their desire to take three points from Dallas at home.
"It matters," Klopas said. "Last year when we played them here we were coming off the U.S. Open Cup loss. We wanted to put that game behind us and I think that carried over from an emotional standpoint with the players. It's difficult, and they're a very good team for sure, but especially when we're playing at home, we want to win."
LOOKING BACK ON PORTLAND LOSS
The Fire are 4-3-3 after their loss to the Timbers over the weekend at Jeld-Wen Field. While Klopas and the Fire are ready to put the 2-1 result behind them, the Fire coach acknowledged that they were thrown off their game Sunday, beginning with the second-half own goal coming off the leg of captain Logan Pause.
"I still feel that the game changed when we gave up that goal early on (in the second half), because Portland sat back on a small field and made it difficult," Klopas said. "We did move the ball really well, and got in good spots, but we didn't create enough and weren't as dangerous in the final third."