Well, the drafting and the signing and the backpedalling on his comments last May are all already done, with a magnificently Mariner-esque bit of hyperbole describing Toronto to Kurt Larson as "the most stable place for me to go as a player", Danny Califf will be plying his trade in Toronto next season. Will he finally be the missing piece at Centre Back who can slot in and provide the solid base to solidify the general chaos that's reigned since Preki left town?
Maybe. He's a big name for sure and if he can play as he has done in the past for Philadelphia, and if he can work well with Darren O'Dea, then we could look back at this as a bit of a steal. But can he do that? Is age catching up with him? How come Chivas was prepared to lose him for nothing? I guess we'll have to see how it all works out when the season starts up, but for a bit more insight from those who've watched him regularly over the last few seasons, I got in touch with SBN's writers from Philadelphia and Chivas for some knowledgeable info.
First up, from The Brotherly Game, here's Scott Kessler.
Califf is a rock in the back, but when it comes to anchoring a defense he needs someone quicker to complement him, ala a Carlos Valdes like in 2011 on the Philadelphia Union. He isn't the slowest player on the field, but he won't catch up to any of the faster players in the league and will get drawn out of position if the fullback on his side is poor at position. He sometimes overplays his role because he wants to make sure the defense works despite problems with fellow defenders.
I can't see him excelling in Toronto because the makeup of that defense simply isn't conducive to him having a good season. Another slow center back and two average or below fullbacks aren't going to give him his 2011 form. He will, however, help a bit with organization and is above average in the air, if not better. Plus he's very physical and plays against bigger strikers well. Depending on his salary, Califf will be serviceable, but he can't change the problems in Toronto.
Hmm, not exactly encouraging given what we know of O'Dea's pace, and Eckersley and Morgan's 'could be improved upon' defending. Anyway, next up, for the second time in about a week, we turn to Alicia Ratterree from The Goat Parade, hoping for good news.
Danny Califf joined Chivas USA through a trade back in May. Meant to replace Heath Pearce, who was traded the same day in a separate deal, Califf's start with the Goats was very good. The team played quite well between his arrival and the end of July, and believe it or not, they were on the cusp of a playoff spot at that point. However, between August and the end of the season, Califf's form tailed off considerably, like the rest of his teammates, and the team's season went down the tubes.
I think he may have gotten tired in the final third of the season, but I'd say overall that I was pretty happy with Califf at Chivas. He wasn't particularly fast, and it is clear his best days are behind him, but I think he can continue to be a good MLS defender, provided he gets help and the occasional game off. He provided some leadership on the field that the team did not have, he did a good job anchoring the defense, and he was a fan favorite. Seriously, at one point Philly's fans were seriously trying to figure out a way to get him back with them, and while I don't think Chivas fans think that's a possibility, they will be sad to see him leave.
Well that's a bit more positive for sure, seems like if you put him in a decent team that can cover his lack of speed, then his leadership will be a positive thing, but does TFC have that decent team to surround him?
Basically both views underscore the reality that we'd best not be hoping for one person to come in and magically fix the whole thing. As one part of the jigsaw he could be very good, let's hope Kevin Payne and co can do a good job of getting those other parts in, or this really won't make much difference will it?