"Philadelphia fans love hard work which is partially why they loved Danny Califf so much."
~ Chris Vito, Philadelphia Union beat reporter for the Delaware County Daily Times, on Soccer Made in Portland
Philadelphia fans have a reputation for being a passionate and loud fan base, not above booing under-performing players, coaches and, yes, even Santa Claus. Yet, in this environment Danny Califf thrived during his two-plus years with the Philadelphia Union. He wasn't the most talented player ousted by Peter Nowak, but he is quite possibly the most missed.
The Orange County native's leadership, passion and intelligence have sparked a renaissance in the back for Chivas USA. And the intangibles Califf has brought to Chivas have yielded some pretty tangible statistics. Read all about it after the jump!
- The Real Salt Lake loss not withstanding, the defense is no longer giving up those catastrophic late goals that appeared to be becoming a trademark for the team. Prior to acquiring Califf, Chivas USA were bleeding away points late in games, giving up five goals after the 83rd minutes for three consecutive games.
- With Califf anchoring the backline, clearances have dropped like a stone. I wrote before that Chivas needed to launch 30 or more clearances in order to get points. The team is still getting points and only twice--Califf's first game against the Los Angeles Galaxy, and last night against FC Dallas--did the team top 20.
- Califf, to state the obvious, is a center back. This is not meant as a criticism of Heath Pearce. Using the chalkboards supplied by Opta and their partnership with Major League Soccer, I compared the two Chivas backs. I used Heath Pearce's final game at centerback, against the San Jose Earthquakes and Danny Califf's match against the Montreal Impact. The only difference among the back four was John Valencia was partnered with Pearce instead of Rauwshan McKenzie.
Quite a few differences.
*Both have plays in the box, however Pearce's tend to be bunched up together either on the penalty spot or on the edge of the six yard box. Califf, on the other hand, tends to be more spread out throughout the box.
*Califf does, apparently, favor the right but he is not as bound to his preference as Pearce was.
*Pearce would back Ante Jazic to make forward runs, Califf provides protection for James Riley, Oswaldo Minda, and Ben Zemanski.
With the way Califf has quickly melded with Dan Kennedy and the rest of the defense, it's no wonder why Danny Califf is so beloved, and all indications are that Chivas did the right thing in trading for him.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!