Darren O’Dea’s red card in Saturday’s 1-0 loss to Sporting Kansas City at the Disney Pro Soccer Classic had one positive aspect for Toronto FC: It gave Danny Califf his first opportunity to go 90 minutes for the Reds.
The combination of O’Dea and Califf (above, left to right) in central defense will be a key for TFC as the club hopes to shore up the defense after allowing a league-high 62 goals in 2012.
The two played 57 minutes together before O’Dea was sent off and then Califf put in the extra time he needed in conditioning to be ready for the March 2 opening game against the Whitecaps in Vancouver.
“It was great,” head coach Ryan Nelsen said of his central defense after Saturday’s game. “Danny is coming back from a [knee] injury and he hasn’t had the preseason that the other players had so we just needed him to get minutes, hopefully to get sharper, faster, quicker.
“This will be really beneficial for him. I was probably only going to give him 70, but with the sending-off, he played out and I think mentally it will be great for Danny knowing he can get through 90 minutes in really hot, testing conditions.”
Califf wasn’t expecting to go 90 minutes, but is glad he did.
“I think it helps my confidence going into Vancouver on March 2 and I’m really excited, I really feel good,” the veteran said. “I was tired at the end, but it’s certainly something I can build on.”
Califf was obtained in the second phase of the Re-Entry Draft from Chivas USA to bring experience and leadership to an unsettled central defense and to pair with O’Dea, a Republic of Ireland international, who was signed last August.
“Obviously with Danny, there’s nothing new, there’s no surprises with what he brings,” O’Dea said in training last week in Orlando. “He’s been in the league for 10 years and has been a success in the league so it’s fantastic for me and all the other players to play alongside someone like that.”