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Talking tactics on Chris Rolfe, Chicago Fire and Dynamo

Oct 31, 2012, 11:50 AM EDT

Chicago Fire v Toronto FC Getty Images

This video preview of tonight’s playoff opener from Major League Soccer’s content producers starts with Chris Rolfe’s role for Chicago. And that’s a heckuva good place to start, because like we told you previously, as Rolfe goes, so goes the Fire offense.

They talk about Rolfe playing as a second forward beneath target striker Sherjill MacDonald. But that’s just it; Rolfe’s role has been in evolution. As teams began identifying ways to keep the Fire’s top attacking threat and primary linking conduit off the ball, the Fire needed to adjust his positioning on the field.

When Rolfe was more successful in September, he was playing deeper, closer to his own goal, picking up balls out of the midfield and then turning quickly to spring the counter attack.

As teams prioritized a quicker closure of passing lanes into Rolfe once possession was claimed by the Fire, he moved further up the field, working in closer connection to MacDonald. Last week against D.C. United, Rolfe looked more like a second forward in a 4-4-2 as opposed to the central playmaker in a 4-2-3-1 that we saw before.

Since Houston seems likely to use two holding midfielders in a 4-4-2 – similar to the way D.C. United set up fairly successfully in a 1-1 draw at Toyota Park last weekend – expect to see Rolfe in the more advanced positioning.

Adam Moffat and Ricardo Clark will be too much for the smaller Rolfe to content with in the midfield, so his best chances of success will be in working the connections closer to MacDonald, moving in and out of the advanced channels while forcing those Dynamo central midfielders and center backs to make choices and communicate on locating Chicago’s primary threat.

Here is the MLSSoccer.com video preview:

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  1. wesbadia - Oct 31, 2012 at 3:39 PM

    If Houston chooses to roll with the two holding mids (like they’ve done a lot lately) in order to shut down Rolfe, how do they play the 4-4-2 effectively enough to get opportunities to attack en masse? By having two holding mids actively disrupting Rolfe’s play, I see them having a tendency to play a bit too deep in their own half to allow them to attack how they normally do. Is it smart for Kinnear to try to beat Chicago at their own game: on the counter?

    I see Houston coming out how they have been for largely the last two months. A 4-3-3 with Clarke and Moffat as holding mids, Davis in the middle of the park being creative, and Boniek, Kandji, and Bruin at the top. Considering Houston probably won’t get many chances on set pieces, I think they only way they score is through grinding it out like work horses.

    That being said, I can’t see favorable results for the Orange. It’ll be a battle of attrition, and I think Chicago squeaks out a single goal late in the match on the counter-attack.

    If I were Klopas, I’d push Rolfe’s evolution a bit further by essentially interchanging him and Flaco so that Rolfe plays wide left and Flaco is CAM. Not because I think Flaco will do better there, per se, but just to throw a wrench in Houston’s defensive set up. Flaco does rather well when there’s not much pressure on him it seems, and if you can get one of Houston’s holding mids to track out wider to cover Rolfe, it may give Flaco room to maneuver in the middle, which could possible lead to continued linking up with MacDonald. This might throw the Dyanmo off a bit and open up enough space to get a goal.

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