Califf returns to lineup, praises Philly's defensive depth

Danny Califf

Photo Credit: 
Courtesy of Philadelphia Union

CHESTER, Pa. – Danny Califf only has one ritual when he watches Philadelphia Union games on TV: to be as far away from anyone else as possible.

“I try to be by myself so I don’t hurt anyone when I start throwing things,” Califf told MLSsoccer.com with a smile. “I get pretty emotional when I watch it.”

HIGHLIGHTS: PHI 1, SJ 2

Unfortunately for Califf, he’s watched more games on TV than he’s wanted to this season.

Before returning to the lineup this past weekend against San Jose, the Union center back sat out two straight contests with a hamstring strain. He was also sidelined for two games in March when Union manager Peter Nowak deemed his captain still needed to work toward full fitness after undergoing offseason knee surgery.

“It’s been a tough year so far,” Califf admitted.

It’s also been a year that’s strayed from the norm.

The four games Califf has already been sidelined for this season is more than all of the games he missed through his first two years in Philly combined. And aside from in 2004, when he made only 10 starts for the Galaxy because of two knee surgeries, the veteran defender has been almost completely healthy during his successful 13-year professional career.

“I think the reality is that as you go along injuries happen in this game,” the 32-year-old defender said. “But that never makes it any easier.”

The fact that the Union got off to a rough start, losing their first three games, made it even harder for Califf to sit out and watch.

But if there’s one thing that’s helped the Union captain deal with his injuries, it’s that the team boasts much better defensive depth this season than it did during Califf’s first two years in Philly. That’s mainly due to the presence of veteran Chris Albright on the bench and the emergence of rookie Raymon Gaddis.

Even with Califf – who anchors the Philly backline, along with Carlos Valdés – missing four of the club’s first seven games, the Union have allowed just eight goals, which is tied for the fifth fewest in the league.

“I don’t know if it makes it any easier, but it’s good we have those options,” Califf said. “It’s better for the team and better for us in the back knowing you can feel comfortable taking the time you need to get 100 percent right from your injury, as opposed to really trying to push it and take an extra risk you’re going to reinjure yourself because you don’t have that depth.”

Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com.