CHESTER, Pa. – If any player on the Philadelphia Union understands the gravity of the season the team just went through, it's captain Danny Califf.
A 10-year veteran, he understands both what it’s like to be on a successful team and the frustration of a disappointing season.
“It was a tough year overall,” Califf said of the team’s first season. “There were a lot of firsts and a lot of pressure in that you want to do well in front of your fans. For the most part, it made us come together and that’s something that is invaluable, especially for the younger guys just coming into the league, and so it’s going to improve us and help us grow.”
The Union earned just 31 points in their inaugural season, good for seventh in the Eastern Conference. It is the lowest point total of any MLS team of which Califf has been a part. But the season also saw the opening of PPL Park, a 14-goal season by Sebastien Le Toux and impressive wins against the Seattle Sounders and New York Red Bulls.
“I haven’t had a whole lot of time to reflect on the year so far, but it was certainly about progress,” Califf said. “From the very beginning to where we’re at right now. We had a lot of ups and downs and lots of adversity but I think all of that will end up paying off in the long run by making us a stronger group and a stronger team.”
And for a young team like the Union, having a full MLS season under their belt is invaluable.
“I’ve said it before, I think the obstacles in this league are very unique,” Califf said of playing in MLS. “When it comes to the travel and the length of the season and playing in the middle of the summer – there are a lot of things that weigh down on you. Once you go through it, you are able to pace yourself.”
The team has a few months of training ahead before it starts up again next season, and the captain has set the bar high for 2011.
“We’ve established that we’re a good enough team, at least within our group that we are a team that can make the playoffs,” said Califf of what they expect in 2011. “I wouldn’t say it’d be a disaster, but it’d be pretty poor if we can’t make the postseason next year.”