TORONTO – MLS and US international veteran Danny Califf was signed by Toronto FC this offseason with the club looking to add a veteran presence on a struggling backline. The only presence the 33-year-old has provided has been supporting his club from the sideline, however.
Califf has not played the central role that he had expected he would when he joined his new club. The 23-time capped US international started Toronto's first four matches under incoming coach Ryan Nelsen, but has not played in a league fixture since his side’s 2-2 draw with the LA Galaxy on March 30.
“It’s just kind of the way that it is,” Califf told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday. "I put my head down and I work hard and, if my name is put up on the board, then great. If not, I’m still going to work hard."
While Toronto earned their only league win of the season with Califf partnering with team captain Darren O’Dea in central defense, Nelsen has since favored young and athletic central defenders such as Gale Agbossoumonde and Doneil Henry during TFC’s heavy schedule during April and May.
Califf did play in both of Toronto’s fixtures in the Amway Canadian Championship semifinals, leading Toronto to a 2-0 win in the home leg, but also playing in the team’s embarrassing 6-0 defeat in Montreal to the Impact.
The long time MLS veteran now looks to have fallen further down the team’s depth chart with Toronto’s recent decision to bring in veteran Scottish central defender Steven Caldwell on loan from Birmingham City.
Asked on Tuesday what it would take for Califf to work himself back into the starting lineup, Nelsen stressed that he employs an egalitarian approach to doling out playing time.
“He has to work hard. It is as simple as that. I have always said that I don’t care if you are 16 or 36 and have played a million games or one game here,” Nelsen said. “You have to work hard and prove yourself every day and that is what good professionals do. If you are a good professional and you work hard, then you will generally be here or hereabouts on the team.”
While both Nelsen and TFC president and GM Kevin Payne have recently expressed their opinions that Califf has an important role to play with Toronto this season, the 33-year-old former MLS Cup winner admitted that his head coach has not spoken to him about when his opportunity will come or how recent acquisitions might have altered his role on the team.
“He hasn’t said anything,” Califf said. "The situation is what it is and we’ll see how long it lasts."