Danny Califf played one of his better games in a Union uniform Saturday, but despite the strong performance the club couldn’t manage to secure their first shutout or winning streak in franchise history.
Though the captain couldn’t do anything to stop Davy Arnaud's game-tying goal, Califf was understandably frustrated after the match.
”I think this is one of the performances where the defense showed the most grit and also the most fight,” he said following the 1-1 draw against the Kansas City Wizards. “So it’s really disappointing to give two points away again.”
What is troubling is not the single result, as Califf notes, but the inability to avoid key mistakes at critical times. Too often in Philadelphia’s inaugural season, control in the run of play bears little or no resemblance to the final score, a reality that is becoming increasingly perplexing for the Union centerback.
“We play well and we get a lot of chances, but we just can’t get there,” Califf said. “I don’t know, maybe we just need to come in and play like garbage and score five goals. “
Califf may have been joking in part, but those words provide some insight into the current mindset of the squad, as they struggle to comprehend the fact that they are playing well and dropping points on a regular basis.
At the same time, Califf understands that it’s important not to lose perspective at moments like these. The recent play of the defense, despite the shutout-less streak, is one reason for optimism, with the unit becoming more cohesive with each passing match.
In fact, the club has managed some very respectable defensive numbers since a rough start to the season, even without the aid of clean sheets to drive the statistics down even further. With goals against averages of 1.00 in the last six matches in all competitions, 1.12 in the last 17 matches in all competitions, and only one goal allowed in eight of the last 12 league matches, it’s clear the defensive unit is doing enough to give the club a chance to win on a consistent basis.
While Arnaud’s goal on Saturday led Manager Peter Nowak to criticize starting goalkeeper Chris Seitz, the Union boss acknowledged that the defense did their part to earn a shutout. For Califf, the backline is still a work in progress, but one that is undoubtedly headed in the right direction.
“I think we’ve got more games under our belt with addition of Juan [Diego González] in the middle, coming into the center of the defense, and with Michael [Orozco Fiscal] out on the right,” he said. “I think you can ask any coach and any defensive player, (and they’ll tell you) that it takes a while to build that continuity. I think we’re getting better and better as a core game after game, but I also think we make a commitment as team to defend better.
“I think anyone can tell we have an attacking style of play and we throw a lot of numbers forward, so a lot of times that leaves us exposed whenever you turn the ball over, with not very many numbers back. So I think we’ve made a conscious effort to be more aware when guys are forward and tuck back in.”
Califf knows the Union must continue to improve defensively and, at least on occasion, stymie the opposition to the point where a single goal is enough to earn three points. In all likelihood, only then will the winnings streaks begin to come.
“I hope it happens,” Califf said, “and I hope it happens soon.”