No member of the Philadelphia Union took losing harder than captain Danny Califf.
The losses bothered him, annoyed him, gnawed at him.
And having to watch other MLS clubs compete in the playoffs – well, that’s just been really hard for him.
Califf always expects to win.
“I would much rather be out here preparing for a playoff game, no question,” Califf said after a recent training session. “The guys here have a great attitude. We’re out here goofing around a little, but you can see that we’re all determined to get this franchise going where we all expect it to be.”
Califf watched the Union compile 31 points in their inaugural season. This was especially difficult for a player who has consistently been used to winning year in and year out, no matter what league he was playing in.
Califf is also smart enough to understand the dynamics of what occurred.
The Union had to play eight of the first 10 games on the road while PPL Park was being completed. There were so many young faces on the club who had never been through such a long season.
“I really believe if we had a normal schedule with those early home games at PPL Park, it would have been a different story,” Califf said. “The young guys would have seen what it was like to play in front of the home crowd early on. We had a lot of obstacles to overcome and it wasn’t easy. In the long run, I think it will be a major benefit. Next season, we’ll all be better off for the experiences we had this season. It was very unique for sure.”
For Califf, a 10-year veteran, having some down time to recuperate and get reenergized will pay large dividends in 2011.
Califf is planning to stay with his family in Media, PA. He will go through his normal training routine while spending quality time at home.
“The season is so demanding these days and my family has always been so supportive,” Califf said. “I’ll do the little things like taking the kids to school and enjoying time with them. I’ll just be ‘Dad.’ I will train and stay fit because that’s so important. You have to stay fit because the sport nowadays is as demanding as ever. I’m looking forward to being with my family and just being home for a while and not having to travel. It’ll be nice."
When March of 2011 rolls around, Califf will be focused on helping the Union improve in their second season.
Actually, that work starts now.
“If we all come back in great shape, that’s a great start and it’s necessary,” Califf said. “We had a number of games this season where we could have had a different result if we hadn’t shot ourselves in the foot. I thought we were good enough to make the playoffs this season. I never thought I was naïve. I believe next season we’re good enough to make the playoffs. I think it’s a great goal to aspire to. You play to win. I think this club will be ready to take a big step.”