After last week's dull first stage of the Re-Entry Draft things got a lot more exciting today with several teams getting involved in the selection process including Toronto FC who decided to make use of their first overall selection to bring in some defensive help.
The club decided to select Danny Califf and will now have seven days to negotiate with him and come to a salary that both can agree on. That can be any amount, but if they don't come to an agreement, then he will become a free agent unless TFC's offer is within 5% of his salary of last year, $275,000, a so-called 'genuine offer'. You'd think, especially given the history as detailed below, that talks would have taken place before the draft and that there's a very good chance he will be in Red next year.
Toronto then passed the second time around meaning that they only added the one player through today's draft and will have to look to other means to continue the roster rebuild that was begun in earnest with the trading of Ryan Johnson and Milos Kocic to Portland Timbers earlier this week. Two former Reds were selected in the draft though as Eric Avila was taken by the Colorado Rapids and Ty Harden went to the San Jose Earthquakes in the first round of selections.
By adding Califf, TFC now has someone to partner with Darren O'Dea in the middle of the defense meaning the days of Richard Eckersley being used as a CB are hopefully over and the likes of Logan Emory and Doneil Henry can take on a less prominent role in 2013.
This selection does not come without its own little share of controversy though as it was reported during the summer that Califf had no interest in coming to Toronto and that was why he ended up being dealt to Chivas instead. He was quoted as saying the following:
"I called Peter back later and said, 'Please, if you're going to make this trade, please don't send me to Toronto. If you have to make this trade, please don't let it be to Toronto.'
"When you're presented with a choice to go to Chivas or Toronto, which place are you going to choose?"
It was certainly not flattering to Toronto at the time that a player would consider Chivas USA to be the better option and that he would be that vehemently opposed to coming to play for TFC. It also made a lot of fans in Toronto angry with Califf and they will certainly have mixed feelings about his addition if Toronto is able to come to terms and sign him in the next week.
It is hard to say if anything has changed since that time but Califf is a professional and hopefully he sees coming to Toronto as a chance to keep his career going and get some good playing time rather than being sent to that hell he so badly wanted to avoid. The hiring of Payne may also have helped his opinion of the club and might make him a bit happier to be heading here.
The drama aside, what sort of player is Toronto FC getting? Well they are getting one with a lot of professional experience who not that long ago was a very good CB for the Union. He is now 32 years old and coming off of a bit of a rough season with Chivas but judging him on that would be like, well, judging a TFC player on how they did in last year's defense. He has the size (6-1) and the strength to form an imposing partnership with O'Dea in the middle of the park.
He does not really have the athleticism that the club claimed they were looking for in a partner for O'Dea but when you look at the potential backline as a whole Eckersley and Ashton Morgan should be able to help to make up for some of that lack of pace and if needed you always have the option of starting Henry or Emory along with one of the bigger CBs against teams with a bit more pace in the attack.
When he left Philadelphia, they were looking to make the team younger and more athletic so he did not really fit in with that vision despite having been a key part of their defense for 2.5 years. In Toronto, I don't think a lack of athleticism is the problem at this point and neither is youth. The team has a lot of athletic young players around but they have been lacking in the kind of solid veterans that can help that young talent fully develop. Califf, if he is willing to embrace the role, is just that kind of player who has experience that can be counted on in games and can help to improve the players around him.
His controversial comments from the summer will not just go away and I am sure he will forced to address that at some point if he does come to Toronto but I have a feeling that as soon as most fans see him alongside O'Dea and making an instant improvement to the defense they will see the comments as just water under the bridge.
(Edit: As per this article on torontofc.ca a new contract has been signed, terms and conditions not known as always)