CHESTER, Pa. — Philadelphia Union captain Danny Califf likes a challenge. Having things come easy isn’t really his style.
So it goes without saying that Califf and the rest of his Union teammates have their work cut out for them on Thursday when the Eastern Conference’s best team, the Columbus Crew, visits PPL Park for the first time.
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Sporting an impressive record of 10-4-4, the Crew have been dominating teams every time they play and haven’t gone more than three matches without a win all season. They are also third in the league in scoring and fourth in goals allowed.
Califf is looking forward to the challenge.
“It’s a good opportunity for us at the midpoint in the season,” Califf said after training on Wednesday. “We’ll use Columbus as a measuring stick. They’re one of the best teams in the league right now. We believe we could have got more points against New England, but Columbus will be a completely different animal.
“They’re going to look to play much more than New England did. They aren’t just going to sit back and knock it forward. It’s really going to be a good match and a good test.”
Scoring and good defense are just the beginning, though. The Crew are a very deep team who posses the ball well and control the flow of their matches. For Califf though, stopping their dead ball opportunities and shutting down a certain Argentine maestro will be the keys.
“They’re very good on set pieces with both [Chad] Marshall and [Andy] Iro,” Califf said. “[Guillermo Barros] Schelotto floats in the middle and finds really good spots. When he gets the ball and is able to face our goal with a little bit of time, he can really put some passes through defenses into seams.
“We’ll have to pressure the ball that gets played into their top guy, but also have someone on Schelotto so that he can’t get his head up.”
The Union have been playing well of late, and Califf emphasized that the team needs to keep up the good work and the results will start to come - especially if they can put the shackles on Schelotto.
“I think we’re going to continue to try and do what we’ve done, which is possess the ball and impose our rhythm on the other team,” Califf said. “I think the other focus is going to be standard situations and getting a handle on where Schelotto is at all times.”