Union Notes: Captain or not, Califf still leads the charge

Faces of First Kick: Danny Califf

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CHESTER, Pa. – For Danny Califf, it doesn’t matter if he’s wearing the captain’s armband or not.

That’s because the Philadelphia Union defender, who’s served as the club’s on-field captain during the past two games with goalkeeper Faryd Mondragón out with a broken finger, is a leader on this team no matter what’s on his arm.

“It’s the same as before,” Califf told MLSsoccer.com. “I like to get in the middle of things regardless.”

Califf was as the first captain in club history last year but lost that role when the veteran Mondragón came to the club this past offseason. It was something the defender said he never took personally.

“Faryd has done a fantastic job,” Califf said. “I don’t feel like my role on the team has changed a whole lot from last year to this year. It’s always an honor every time you pull on your shirt, and I don’t think that feeling has changed.”

Mondragón, meanwhile, has continued to be a vocal leader even as he recovers from his injury, barking and jumping out of his seat from the sidelines during the past two games.

“Faryd is with us,” Philadelphia Union manager Peter Nowak reminded reporters this week. “He’s sitting on the bench and giving direction in the locker room as well.”

Houapeu done for year

When the Philadelphia Union drafted Levi Houapeu in the third round of the 2011 MLS SuperDraft, Nowak boasted of Houapeu’s explosiveness and predicted he would help the club tremendously.

That will have to wait at least another season.

Earlier this week, the Ivorian rookie striker was placed on the disabled/season-ending injury list because of a left ankle strain, a move that was announced in conjunction with the signing of another international player, English defender Joe Tait.

“We knew from our doctors that Levi would have a difficult time making it back by the end of the season,” Nowak said. “So a spot opened.”

Houapeu, who led the nation in scoring with 30 goals and 17 assists over his final two seasons at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, didn’t play in any league contests this season but did see action in a handful of reserve games.

From D-III to MLS

Just before today’s roster freeze deadline, the Union announced the signing of midfielder Morgan Langley from the club’s USL-Pro affiliate, the Harrisburg City Islanders.

Langley appeared in 20 games and scored two goals for Harrisburg this season, helping the Islanders advance to the USL-Pro championship game. Prior to that, the 22-year-old native of Hawaii starred for Division III Swarthmore, setting school records for career points (95), career assists (27) and single-season points (42).

The Union have had good luck signing players from the City Islanders before. Last year, they acquired ex-Islander Sheanon Williams, who quickly emerged as Philly’s starting right back and one of their most important players.

Langley had been training with the Union with fellow Islander Sainey Touray, a 21-year-old Gambian striker, since the beginning of the week.

Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at djzeitlin@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter at @DaveZeitlin.