CHESTER, Pa. – Danny Califf is glad to be home.
On Tuesday, for the first time since last season, Califf and the rest of the Philadelphia Union practiced at PPL Park. The club just returned from a 10-day training stint in Costa Rica, which followed two grueling weeks in Florida.
“He’s put the petal to the metal,” Califf said of Union manager Peter Nowak. “I think we’re all looking forward to getting back into the training routine where we’re here and able to establish that routine and not be 100 miles per hour all the time. Just to walk out and be in our locker room again, it feels good. It feels comfortable.”
Now the question for Califf is how comfortable the team will be when they begin the 2012 season in Portland on March 12 (9:30 pm ET, ESPN2/ESPN Deportes), hostile territory by any standard. As the captain, he’s anxious to see how the club’s newest and youngest additions will handle the challenge – not just in the opener but for the rest of what will be a very long MLS season.
“I think you can make some pretty big strides in the preseason,” Califf said. “You can understand people are good guys. But it’s not until you hit one of those low points in the season when you figure out who the guys you can count on are.”
Califf actually got a sense of how his teammates might handle a tough spot during the club’s melee with the Costa Rican club Belén in a March 1 friendly. Although Philly’s hard-nosed defender said he had been advised by the coaches not to talk about the dust-up, he did say that he was “proud of the guys” because “everyone stuck up for each other and backed each other up, and no one was going to let anything happen to anybody.”
He learned a lot about his teammates during the rest of the Costa Rica excursion, too. After all, the players did little else besides play soccer.
“Any time you go on trips and spend a lot of time with people, you get to know their personalities and feel comfortable with them,” Califf said. “And obviously you get extra time on the training field and get to know their habits and temperaments.”
“I think it’s good,” he added. “It’s just long.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at email@example.com.