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Toronto FC 2013 Top 36 countdown: Number 28 - Danny Califf

It's another curious case, another 'what might have been' kind of article. The big off season signing, the defensive rock the foundation would be built around, quite quickly given up on, ending in a scouting role. At number 28, it's Danny Califf.

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Collin, meet Califf's elbow.
Collin, meet Califf's elbow.

Average Ranking: 26.15
Highest Ranking: 17
Lowest Ranking: 33

Duncan: 27. Colin Clark, Conor Casey, Chad Barrett, Ike Opara. There weren't a lot of great options available in the re-entry draft, but there were a few good names there, but the one TFC took with their first overall pick was Danny Califf. He was then quickly signed up to a deal later revealed to be $165k, a good chunk less than the $275k he'd earned the season before.

The first order of business was to awkwardly back away from his 'oh good god no, not Toronto, don't send me to Toronto' comments from 2012. He tried to clarify that it was all about wanting to live closer to home in LA, but that certainly doesn't really match up with what he said at the time. Whatever really, I wouldn't blame anyone for not wanting to come near 2012 TFC, that was all forgotten fairly quickly, and talk changed to how Califf could be the answer at the back. The off season and pre season were full of comments from Payne and Nelsen about his leadership and character. How his experience would be fantastic for the young defence to learn from, all that sort of thing. Califf weighed in with comments about wanting to form the defence into a little gang and how his guiding philosophy on the pitch is 'be a pessimist' (hope he applies that to off the pitch stuff as well, after Philly in 2012, Chivas USA and now TFC, I think he probably does.)

So far so good, but as preseason kicked into gear, minor niggles and questions of fitness started cropping up, not that Danny was worried, after all this wasn't his first rodeo. As the season started there he was in the Right Centre Back position, and I thought he did very well. He certainly did his bit to organise and cajole those around him, and I thought in the first 3 games the right side of defence, Califf with Eckersley at Right back and Terry Dunfield ahead of him played very well together, Eckersley pressuring up the pitch and Califf and Dunfield doing a very good job of cleaning up behind him when long balls were forced. After Eckersley switched to the left, replaced by Darel Russell for the game against LA, Califf didn't look as good in the 4th game, and then that's when things got a bit weird and thus this article becomes yet another 'what might have been' one, another curious case of TFC's man management skills not being ideal.

He missed the next game with the flu, fair enough, that happens, but then the next one as well, not making it off the bench in his return to Philadelphia. He missed the next games against Houston and new York as well as it became clearer and clearer that he wasn't in Ryan Nelsen's plans at all. He did play in the Voyageurs Cup, helping keep a clean sheet in a 2-0 win, and that combined with the constant late collapses in the league games led me to suggest he should be brought back in (an article amusingly re-tweeted by Califf's wife) after all Ryan Nelsen was crying out for some character and backbone, exactly what everyone was saying Califf would bring.

He did play one more game, the return leg against Montreal, a 6:0 defeat every bit as sloppy as the scoreline suggests, I won't link it here to avoid PTSD, but really only one of the goals could be chalked up as Califf's fault, the 3rd saw him swing and miss at what should have been an easy interception of a cross.

After that, well he just drifted further and further away from first team contention, Steven Caldwell came along and took over the 'tough veteran' gig and it was clear Califf was done as a TFC player, with excuses ranging from fitness or injury issues, to illness to personal issues he had to go back to California to clear up. He was apparently almost traded back to Philadelphia along with Stefan Frei in what would have been a very clear salary dump and eventually it all ended with a very strange twist. Amid talk form TFC of chronic injuries that just wouldn't heal, Califf announced his retirement, becoming a scout for TFC instead in what was clearly one of those classic 'look, we'll keep paying you, we just want the roster spot and your salary off the cap so just say you retired, alright' TFC moves.

His retirement letter suggested it wasn't an entirely amicable ending:

Today, I am announcing my retirement from soccer. It is a very emotional day for me. However, I am not retiring because I have a career ending back injury, or because I have knee problems, or because TFC did not do their due diligence when they signed me in January.

The reason for my retirement is because when you are 33 years old and have played for 14 years at the professional level, you start to have priorities that reach beyond yourself. Do I really want to train every day knowing that I am not in the coach's plan to play, as well as knowing you are taking your kids and family away from their friends and other family? The answer is no. It's best to put my family and kids first, and to take the opportunity to still be involved in the game. For the first time in my life I will get to eat what I want, have a beer on a Friday night, and take a vacation in the summer. Those are the things I am looking forward to.

It screams, 'they're lying, I'm not injured, if there's someone out there who wants me to play, I'm ready to go, please come get me.'

A worthwhile experiment, that I thought had worked quite well, abandoned curiously quickly. I can't help but think there was more behind the scenes drama than a straight up 'Nelsen doesn't like him for that salary'. Ah well, one more player in and out of the revolving door, I just hope he didn't get any Toronto themed tattoos under the impression this'd be an important stage in his life.

Enjoy those Friday night beers and summer vacations Danny.

Dave: 27. Another year, another big solution to Toronto FC's defensive woes. Oh, and another one that did not work out. Califf had a few good matches but his lack of athleticism was proving costly and left O'Dea and the outside defenders with a lot more work to do. Then he started to pick up some "injuries" and things all went south. Another messy situation leading to an eventual retirement but raising more questions about the way this club deals with players.

Armen: 28. Came into the club and heralded as a leader of the backline, but did little but bring James van Riemsdyk into locker room.

James: 26. His signing then freezing out was the first indication that this season would rumble with activity - made very little sense, indicated a lack of communication - Caicedo & Hassli-esqe short-termism

Kristin: 27. The rockabily thrower of elbows! It seems oh so long ago that he played for this team. Well, in fact he didn't play much did he? Califf was a controversial signing at best and left in much the same manner. One of those relegated to the bench and beyond after an injury only to become one of the job for life crew as a "scout" for Toronto.

Angus Chung: It was just weird how he left. Another example of the abysmal player-management relations that exemplify TFC.

Bruce Harding. Hmm. This worked out well.

Ignirtoq: #lookedNeat

Jon Spratt: "O'Dea and Califf, central defence is SORTED!" Not so much. Seemed like a weird behind-the-scenes struggle, and then he retired. Moving on.

Josh Mote: Cool tats though.

Mark_HSV: After the way he was touted as the guy to anchor the defense, he really should have had more of a chance. He couldn't have been that bad. I didn't like him on previous teams though.

Michaelvee: Danny Califf is a TFC scout. I hope that works out for us.

Prizby: Some suggested this might be the 'marquee' signing of year (I use that term loosely). Califf was supposed to help shore up the defence; he did little of that and was eventually (and maybe somewhat rightfully) pushed into retirement; Danny Califf of 3 years ago would have been sick on this team

Robert Snider: a soap opera - not sure why it took so long to make a decision- not good to be this high in the order as it is not from his play but his situation off field

The Yorkies: Is there a market for rockabilly scouts?

Tim: What do you say… a HUGE screw up on EVERYONE'S part

Tyler: Califf got the shit end of the stick for sure. I feel bad for him, but we're much better off with Caldwell and Henry

Yohan: Victim of numbers game. Was making too much for a depth CB, and once Caldwell joined, the writing was on the wall. May now fully pursue his other likely career, a bouncer or a hard nosed hitman, because I wouldn't mess with Califf by looking at him.

Number 27: John Bostock

Number 29: Danny Koevermans

Full Top 36 Countdown