There are many sides to Danny Califf.
Watch him mingle with his teammates and you’ll see the humorous side. Watch him a couple of hours after a game and you’ll see the soft side as he plays with his kids. Watch him during a game and you’ll see the intense side.
The 30-year-old Califf is multi-dimensional on and off the field. And there’s a reason the Union named the defender as captain before the first-ever regular season match at Seattle.
Leadership qualities can be hard to find. With Califf, it just comes naturally.
“I hate to lose and I have said that repeatedly,” said Califf. “I always play to win. I feel like we have the talent to win now. We have shot ourselves in the foot far too often this season. I think the talent in this locker room is more than capable of winning. I like my attitude to rub off and that comes with leadership. I like being a leader.
“There’s a time to relax and joke around. You have to have a balance and young players need to see that. When it’s time to train and play, they’ll see me change up and go all out. You have to. That’s how you get on a path to winning.”
The Union have won four games thus far in this landmark season. But there is a long way to go.
“I think we’re ready for the next step,” Califf said. “I said from the beginning of the year that I was naïve, but I thought we could win right now. I still think that. I get frustrated when we do so many things well and dominate a game for much of it only to make one mistake to lose or get a draw which we should have won. We’re going to stick with it. I’m going to make sure of it. We have a lot of goals left that we want to accomplish.”
When that whistle blows at the beginning of a game, Califf is focused solely on the match.
The young players have seen that from Day One.
“Danny’s intensity is something that you want to match,” said rookie forward Danny Mwanga. “You want to live up to his expectations as a captain. You feel like if you give what he has, you have a great chance to be successful.”
Califf was drafted by the Galaxy in 2000 and won three championships with the club – the ’00 Champions Cup, the ’01 U.S. Open Cup and the ’02 MLS Cup. The 30-year-old has served as Captain of Aalborg BK of the Danish Superliga and has been capped 23 times with the U.S. Men’s National Team. In ’09, Califf captained the side’s 3-2 win over Sweden and helped them to a first-place finish in the CONCACAF region to earn a trip to the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. He also helped the club to the finals of the Confederations Cup, where they ousted Spain, 2-0, in the semifinal round.
Following the ’05 season, Califf joined Aalborg BK of the Danish Superliga and went on to make more than 50 appearances in three seasons. As captain, Califf led the club to the 2007 UEFA Cup group stage after a huge upset of Italian side Sampdoria. In ’08, Califf signed with FC Midtjylland and was moved into the starting lineup where he eventually made 23 appearances as co-captain.
Following a four-year stint overseas, Califf was signed by Philadelphia on January 21, 2010 after his rights were previously acquired on Dec. 3, 2009.
“I was so excited to come to Philadelphia,” Califf said. “I have so much respect for [Coach] John Hackworth and [Manager] Peter Nowak. I thought coming here with a clean slate was a great opportunity. The fan base here is amazing and is there for us every day. There is every opportunity here to succeed. It’s great all the way around.”
When you put in the work like Califf, it’s going to be that much more meaningful.
“Danny and I joke around a lot,” said forward Sebastien Le Toux. “We know how to work when it’s time to do that. I respect Danny for everything that he brings to the table. It’s an honor to be his teammate.”
Come Sunday, when it’s time to face D.C. United at RFK Stadium, Califf's serious side will come out. When the match ends, he’ll soon rejoin his family and revel in the smiles his kids toss his way.
“I love the sport of soccer,” said Califf. “I’ve always been passionate about it. Hey, this is what I do. I love this organization. I’m so thankful for the support my family has given me.”