By FRANCO PANIZO
The relationship between Danny Califf and the Philadelphia Union did not end in the most pleasant of ways, but the start to the latest chapter in his career has gone as well as anyone could have imagined.
Since being traded by the Union to Chivas USA a week ago, Califf has gotten off to a strong start with the Goats by helping them to a win over the Los Angeles Galaxy in his debut last Saturday and a 1-1 draw against the red-hot New York Red Bulls on Wednesday. This despite him having little time to adjust to his new surroundings and teammates, and after flying cross country before each match.
"I'm sure it's been a whirlwind for him, but he's adapted great," said Chivas USA head coach Robin Fraser. "He's such a good professional. He's really a defender who has gotten to where he's gotten not because of just his physical skills, but because of his approach: his physical approach, his mental approach and he's jumped right in and fitting in great."
The 32-year-old Califf may be fitting in great with his new surroundings because he grew up not too far from Los Angeles. Born in Montclair, Califf spent a chunk of his life in California, even playing the first five years of his professional career with the Los Angeles Galaxy before spending a season with the San Jose Earthquakes and then plying his trade in Europe.
That wealth of experience (he's also played for the U.S. men's national team) has served Califf well. In his rookie season in 2000, Califf and Fraser were teammates with the Galaxy and that familiarity combined with being the new player in town has helped Califf ease into things with the Goats despite being with them for just a week.
"Stepping into the locker room, it's like Cheers where you walk in and everyone knows your name," said Califf. "Having past experience almost with the entire staff is what made the transition pretty comfortable. Some of the older guys on the team I know pretty well. So far the transition has been smooth and easy."
The end to Califf's time in Philadelphia was anything but smooth and easy. Drama and uncertainty revolved around the former Union captain's future, as club head coach Peter Nowak looked to trade the veteran defender, that by MLS standards, was and is expensive.
As hurt as Califf was by the Union wanting to get rid of him, he was equally as frustrated with how long it took for the club to finalize a deal.
"There's some things that were going on that weren't that sweet, but it is nice to be in a somewhat stable situation, especially after, I think, the longest trade in MLS history," Califf said with a smile. "It kept getting delayed and delayed. I was told it was done and it wasn't, so it's nice to be in a stable spot where the coaching staff believes in me."
Califf's tenure with the Union may not have ended as well as he would have liked, but that does not mean he sees his time there as negative. Instead, Califf insists that his two-plus years playing at PPL Park were ones he enjoyed for the most part.
"I look back on it with extreme fondness," said Califf. "I was embraced by the city, I was embraced by the fans. My family loved it, my kids loved it, so I look back on it with nothing but positive. I'm over all the garbage that went on at the end. I don't have time to worry about it anymore, so I'm focusing on the happy time I had there, which was pretty much the whole time.
Califf's focus is now on the future with his new club. He is aiming to help Chivas USA end their home woes en route to making the playoffs this season, and so far he's doing his part to ensure that happens.