Union's Nowak, Califf make peace after weekend flareup

Danny Califf

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CHESTER, Pa. – It appears the air has been cleared between Philadelphia Union manager Peter Nowak and team captain Danny Califf.

The club made headlines on Sunday when Nowak decided to sit Califf for the Union’s home opener, citing offseason knee surgery as the reason why. Califf responded that Nowak never approached him before the game to tell him he wasn’t in the starting lineup and told reporters that he was completely healthy and surprised by the omission.

Two days later, the communication lines between Philly’s captain and coach have been reopened and the brewing controversy appears mostly squashed.

“We had a good talk yesterday,” Califf said following Wednesday’s practice. “I think we resolved some issues, so I think things are going to be much better going forward. It was a good, constructive talk. We were both able to get things off our chest, so we’ll move forward in a positive way.”

Added Nowak: “I think it was a very helpful and a very healthy conversation. The communication was very important from both sides.”

Neither Califf nor Nowak went into much detail about what was said behind closed doors, but the Union manager did briefly address why he didn’t tell his captain prior to the game about his exclusion from the starting 11.

In Califf’s place, Chris Albright got the nod at center back alongside Carlos Valdés and fullbacks Sheanon Williams and Porfirio López.

“You have 28 guys in the locker room, and in some capacity, you’ve got to make a decision on who is playing on the weekend,” Nowak said. “It’s difficult for any of us to explain to the other 17 guys, having chats about why this happened or why you’re not playing or why you’re playing. I would say that putting out the lineup and putting out the reserves is communication with the team.”

As for the mysterious knee injury, Califf admitted he did undergo offseason surgery but quickly added that “going forward it’s not going to be an issue.”

And as to whether he’ll return to the starting 11 this Saturday against Chicago, the Union defender said that “he’ll be ready to go if need be” but that he “had no idea” if he’d be called upon.

Nowak also appeared unsure of whether Califf would be in the lineup and said that the club would exercise caution in how they deal with a player who up to this past weekend had started 62 of the team’s 65 total games.

“I think we’ll find a good formula to assess the whole thing with our trainers, with our strength and conditioning coach and we’ll try to prepare Danny for another 32 weeks,” Nowak said. “I think right now he understands the whole concept of that and it shouldn’t be a problem going forward.”

Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at djzeitlin@gmail.com.