Before Chris Rolfe bids farewell to the Chicago Fire at the end of the year, he wants to provide a championship to the organization that provided him his first professional soccer opportunity.
"I know for sure that this could be my last chance in a long time to win a MLS Cup," said Rolfe, who will join Danish club Aalborg in January. "This team, we have so much talent. If we can figure out how to put it together this last stretch of the season, we can definitely win the championship."
In the Sept. 12 1-1 tie at Real Salt Lake, he scored the Fire's lone goal in memorable fashion. With an aerial pass directed into the box, he leaped, stopped the ball with his chest and, before it reached the ground, knocked the descending ball with the outside of his right foot while he was falling and sent it into the right corner of the net past the diving goalkeeper.
It was the sort of play the Fire will miss next season.
"I think he has the ability to finish and score goals," Fire technical director Frank Klopas said. "He can create opportunities. He can make things happen."
Although the Fire will need to find another gifted midfield player who can score, Klopas isn't upset about Rolfe's departure.
"As much as you hate to lose someone like that, you understand his desire and opportunity to play overseas and wish him the best in the end," Klopas said. "It's a situation where Chris is 26 years old. As a player coming into the league, he's always had it in his mind to play overseas. If he doesn't try now, the window of opportunity will close. I totally understand."
Rolfe is living out a dream with his transfer to Aalborg, but he had to be patient about it. It's a move that has been in the works since January. With his Fire contract expiring at the end of the season, Rolfe knew he wanted to play overseas. Through a friend and agent, Aalborg became aware of Rolfe, gave him a look and was interested, and they finalized a deal in early September.
Two weeks ago, Rolfe took an eight-and-a-half-hour flight to Denmark and checked out where he'll be living and playing.
"It was so exciting," he said. "It's a European soccer club. They do things the right way. They have great training facilities. Everyone was generous and nice. I feel like it's a place that has a great club, and I will fit in, and I can help the team, and they can help me also. I get to challenge myself and see how I can compete at an international level."
Rolfe is looking forward to getting on to the next part of his career, but he has enjoyed his time with the Fire. He certainly will never forget winning the U.S. Open Cup in 2007.
"Coming in and winning a championship and celebrating at home with the fans was a really great experience," he said. "Having the opportunity to play with the likes of [Chris] Armas, [John] Thorrington, C.J. Brown -- those guys really helped me develop over the years. I owe a lot to them."
As much as Rolfe would like to provide the Fire with a championship before he departs, they would like to provide him the same.
"For us right now, we're in a very good spot," Klopas said. "We want to win a championship. That's been our goal as an organization and his goal. It'd be great to win one before he goes."
Scott Powers covers the Chicago Fire for ESPNChicago.com and can be reached at email@example.com.