EXCLUSIVE: Chicago’s Rolfe To Join Danish Club Aalborg

Goal.com has learned that Chicago Fire attacker Chris Rolfe is leaving the MLS club in January. He spoke exclusively with Goal.com.
The Chicago Fire’s Chris Rolfe is blowing out of the Windy City. The mercurial striker has signed a pre-deal with Aalborg and will complete a free transfer to the Danish Superliga side when the January transfer window opens.

“I’m very excited, as I think Aalborg is as well,” Rolfe told Goal.com on Wednesday afternoon. “It’s a new opportunity and something I’ve always wanted to do.”

The contract with AaB, as Aalborg is known, is for three years. Terms have not been disclosed.

Drafted out of the University of Dayton in 2005, the 26-year-old is in the middle of his fifth season in MLS, all with Chicago. He has notched a total of 35 goals in league play over his career and is currently tied for second on the Fire with five goals.

Originally, Rolfe was planning to extend his contract with the Fire, which finished at the end of 2009. But negotiations between the player and MLS, which owns all the contracts of MLS players, collapsed this summer. In early July, according to a source with knowledge of the deal, AaB offered to purchase Rolfe during the summer transfer window. The league turned down the offer.

“I love Chicago, they’ve been great to me,” he said. “The fans, especially, have been awesome. But with the way the contracts are in MLS, now was really the only time for me to make this jump.”

This has been a difficult season at Toyota Park. The Fire started the season well, going undefeated in their first 11 games. But they have since posted a 5-6-2 record. They crashed out of the US Open Cup early, and lost on penalties to Tigres in the Superliga final.

Injuries and controversy have undermined the club of late. Last month, a locker-room bust-up between head coach Denis Hamlett and centerback Bakary Soumare hastened Soumare’s departure for Ligue 1 side US Boulogne for a reported €1.5 million ($2.14 million).

“That kind of stuff happens in a lot of locker rooms all around the world, it just so happened that the situation became public for our team,” Rolfe said. “That didn’t really play much of a part in this. It’s just a long-term goal of mine and now I have the opportunity to chase it.”

Quick and tireless, Rolfe is known for his ability to make dangerous runs behind the defense and also for a vicious long-range shot. He is equally comfortable playing as a forward or a winger, a versatility that should prove useful at Aalborg, who sold regular right-winger Thomas Enevoldsen to Eredivisie side Groningen last week.

Several clubs were supposedly interested in Rolfe, who has 10 caps for the national team, including clubs in Norway and Germany, according to the source. But the native of Ohio decided to follow in the footsteps of several other Americans who have transferred to Danish clubs in recent years. American striker Marcus Tracy joined AaB last winter, and US internationals Benny Feilhaber, Danny Califf, and Michael Parkhurst all play in the Danish Superliga. Real Salt Lake striker Yura Movsisyan has a similar pre-deal signed to join with Randers FC in January.

“Those guys have helped me a lot, particularly Michael and Danny,” Rolfe said. “They’ve given me their take on the league, the country, and the people. They’ve told me it’s a good league, very challenging, faster and more technical.”

Many players use the Scandinavian leagues as a stepping-stone to a larger league or club in Europe. For example, US international Charlie Davies began with Swedish side Hammarby before moving to Ligue 1 side Sochaux. Is that well-paved route in the back of Rolfe’s mind, too?

“Yes, of course,” he said. “This hopefully is just the beginning of a long career. In a general sense, though, I want to help Aalborg get into Champions League and win cups.”

Greg Lalas, Goal.com