2015 was a good one for D.C. United's Chris Rolfe. Coming over from the Chicago Fire for allocation money, he led the team in goals scored with 10, a personal best for Rolfe, to go with similar bests in starts (30), minutes played (2455) and near bests in shots (64) and shots on goal (29). He signed a contract extension in September of 2015 to last through 2017, with a club option for 2018 (he was listed as making $257,500 base salary in 2016, with $272,500 in guaranteed compensation).
Like the team, Rolfe got off to a slow start offensively, registering one assist in 9 games, then an April game against his old Fire teammates, Rolfe said about this "...was a solid hit but nothing you would imagine would cause this kind of trouble...I thought it can’t be that bad."
He would stay in the game, leaving in the 72th minute for tactical reasons, but it would also be the last minutes of his 2016 season, as he was diagnosed with a concussion after the game. As he would later say in Steve Goff’s excellent piece describing the difficulties he was experiencing with this health problem:
The first seven days, it continued to get worse and worse and worse...And then it hit its peak and hung there for a month to six weeks.
Rolfe served as a cog in offense in the early part of the season (or at least as much as one could with that offense), maintaining his 2 shots per game average from 2015 while boosting his key passes per game to 1.7 in 2016 doubling his ‘15 total. His work was done both before United’s formation change and the subsequent emergence of Luciano Acosta, Patrick Nyarko, Patrick Mullins and Lloyd Sam.
The latter two pieces were acquired midseason, so if Rolfe were to regain his health his place on the field remains uncertain. Would he be the first choice substitute off the bench, with guile overcoming his age (34 at the beginning of 2017)? Sam is 32, so perhaps if he does come back, he even starts in front of Sam at right midfield? He could also see time in the middle - though with Acosta and Mullins in place, minutes would be scarce - or on the left, though competition is stiff there too.
All this said, the first priority for Rolfe is to return to health before returning to the field, because having a second United player retire in as many years to concussion issues (Davy Arnaud being the first) would be disconcerting. More importantly, we're talking about an injury linked with serious, long-term repercussions. Just hearing that Rolfe can live his day-to-day life without trouble would be a big plus.
With things this unclear, let's remove a variable for the purposes of our poll. Working with the assumption that Rolfe is totally healthy and available for next season: