Califf Takes Responsibility for Mistake

Defender was issued a red card against Toronto

 

Danny Califf knows he made a mistake. 

And he took the blame, which is what a captain should do.

In the 34th minute, Califf was given a red card for lunging at Toronto’s Julian de Guzman, trying to prevent him from getting to a back-pass to goalkeeper Chris Seitz that should’ve been firmer. Referee Baldomero Toledo didn’t waste any time showing red.

That one play didn’t single-handedly cost Philadelphia Union the game, but it did leave them short-handed for much of what wound up being a 2-1 loss at BMO Field on Thursday night. 

“It is what it is,” Califf said after the match. “I take full responsibility for my actions. Tonight's loss, it's on my shoulders. As the captain, I should do a better job leading the team. I made a mistake tonight -- and the team paid for my mistake.”

That’s Califf – open, honest and sincere. He’ll continue to play an aggressive style, the type of soccer demanded from Team Manager Peter Nowak.

“I’m a hard-nosed, physical player,” Califf said after the club’s 3-2 win over D.C. United on April 10 at Lincoln Financial Field. “I’ve always been that way. The key is playing smart soccer and being a leader out there.”

Califf would likely be the first to tell you that he wasn’t playing smart soccer in Toronto. Physical and aggressive are necessary qualities for a center back, but they need to be harnessed properly. 

As one of the most experienced players on the team, Califf doesn’t need to be told how to toe the line between aggressive and over-aggressive. Last Thursday was the exception, not the rule. Califf has proven his effectiveness and leadership throughout his career.

Having earned 23 caps with the USMNT in his career, Califf has captured three championships in MLS, all with the LA Galaxy, including the 2002 MLS Cup, the 2001 U.S. Open Cup and the 2000 Champions’ Cup titles. After being traded to the San Jose Earthquakes in 2005, Califf was rewarded with a spot on the MLS Best XI team. 

Following the 2005 season, Califf made the move across the Atlantic Ocean to Aalborg BK of the Danish Superliga. Califf made more than 50 league appearances for the Danish side in three seasons and, as a captain, led the team into the 2007 UEFA Cup group stage after a massive upset of Italian side Sampdoria. In 2008, he signed with FC Midtjylland and was immediately inserted into the starting line-up, where he made 23 appearances as vice-captain of the squad.

You don’t have that kind of success without knowing the right way to play. It’s Califf’s job to set the tone on and off the field. That’s a big reason why Team Manager Peter Nowak brought Califf in and named him captain.

“We expect Danny will bring tons of MLS and international experience to the pitch, every day,” Nowak said when Califf was signed in January. “His excellent work ethic will set a high standard to guide our young players at every practice and in every match.” 

That’s exactly what happened in preseason and early on in the regular season. It’s a big reason why the Union have shown determination and fight through early season adversity, which has seen them play over 1/3 of their first three games down a man. 

Unable to play against New York on April 24th due to a one-game suspension resulting from the red card, Califf will need to help the Technical Staff prepare a backline that will be without its anchor. Knowing Califf, he’ll approach that challenge with the same vigor as any other.

But you’d have to think the date circled on Califf’s calendar is May 1st, when Philadelphia will visit his old stomping grounds in LA. 

The red card won’t matter anymore. Sporting a new haircut after shaving his mohawk following the match against Toronto, Califf will get back to being an enforcer on the backline. Same mindset, just a little more controlled. 

Califf knows he messed up and pointed the finger at no one but himself. That's leading by example. In two weeks, he'll get back to doing so on the pitch. It's what a captain does.