CARSON, Calif. – Danny Califf just lived through what he described as “longest trade in MLS history.” Now though, the veteran center back couldn’t be happier at his new home with Chivas USA.
Just hours after being dealt from the Philadelphia Union, Califf was slotted into the starting lineup for the Rojiblancos in their 1-0 victory over the LA Galaxy in the SuperClásico. Eager to get on the field after a bizarre departure that played out in the open due to the comments of Union head coach Peter Nowak, Califf looked like his old self again on the field last Saturday. The performance was vintage Califf as he led the backline and repeatedly extinguished Galaxy attacks.
“We had a great conversation on the first day and we talked about some of the things that our team needs," Chivas head coach Robin Fraser told reporters after the match, "and, above all, we said, 'Don’t feel like you need to do anything but be you. Don’t try to take on any different type of personality or anything else but what you do.'
"So it was great to see him step in and look extremely comfortable as you’d like to see an experienced center back come in and I thought he did what we needed him to do.”
What Fraser needed him to do was provide a stabilizing force in the back four – a position that was vacated by ex-Chivas defender Heath Pearce, who was traded to the New York Red Bulls on the same day that Califf was acquired.
Califf did just that as he organized the backline, providing a vocal presence and repeatedly helping the defense keep an organized shape that largely kept the pressure off goalkeeper Dan Kennedy. His finest moment came midway through the second half when he dispossessed Mike Magee, averting what appeared to be a clear scoring chance.
From the get-go, Califf seemed in sync with center back Rauwshan McKenzie adding that “if this is the first sign of things to come then he’s going to make my life pretty easy” after the match.
“I didn’t feel uncomfortable,” Califf said with a smile. “I wasn’t worried going in because I was trying to really concentrate on doing my job well and trying to be a good communicator and be aware of all the guys around me. It seemed to kind of click into place [on Saturday]. It was my first win of 2012, so I’m overjoyed.”
His first win of the year in hand, Califf admitted that the experiences of the last week were trying, but in the end, that mattered little to the Southern California native.
“I felt at home,” said Califf. “I walked out the hotel the other morning in flip-flops and I just sniffed the air and thought, ‘Oh, man, I’m home.’ There’s no other feeling like it.”
Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.