For a few months, the trade in May for Danny Califf (with Michael Lahoud going to the Philadelphia Union) helped revitalize Chivas USA's 2012 season. He, along with Juan Agudelo, arrived just before the first SuperClasico of the season, helped Chivas beat the LA Galaxy for the first time in five years, and became an automatic starter for most of the season. He played in each of Chivas' U.S. Open Cup matches, one of only four players on the squad to feature in all of the team's games in that tournament. He also quickly became a fan favorite, and really seemed to be looking ahead to his time with Chivas, instead of rueing the difficult situation that led to his trade.
For a team that suffered from leadership on the field all season, Califf's addition to the backline substantially helped solidify the defense for a few months. Most frequently partnered with Rauwshan McKenzie in the middle, with Ante Jazic and James Riley on the flanks, Chivas' defense helped spell Dan Kennedy for many games in the middle of the season. Between May and the end of July, Califf started every league game, and the team went 4-2-4, with a goal differential of -1. And while the team was playing well enough to get results more often than not through that stretch, Califf's arrival seemed to really settle the team and help them play their best as a unit.
But then...From August through October, the team, with many of the same players, bottomed out. Going from just outside the playoff positions to firmly in last place, the good form of the middle of the season completely disappeared. In the final 14 games of the season, Califf started nine of those, and Chivas went 0-7-2, with a goal differential of -17. Whether it was because he got tired, or if Fraser decided to play other guys (ahem, Shalrie Joseph) ahead of Califf, he didn't feature in the final four games of the season.
Here are Califf's statistics with Chivas in 2012:
|Games Played||Games Started||Minutes||Goals||Assists||Shots||SOG||Yellow Cards||Red Cards|
|MLS Regular Season||19||19||1,674||1||0||5||1||2||0|
|U.S. Open Cup||4||3||277||0||0||0||0||1||0|
Califf had the gamewinner with his only goal of the season (in their final game against the Portland Timbers), and we all know there weren't many players who had game-winning goals in 2012. His aerial strengths helped the defense control lobs and crosses, and in the one case helped get the Goats the win.
On the whole, how can we assess the season of Califf? As far as the team's record and defensive form, there was a striking division between the two halves of his season with the Goats. That said, did he bring more good or bad to the team? I'd say it was more positive on the whole. He had the experience that Chivas needed among the center backs, and while his skills have declined over the years, it isn't hard to think he could still have a couple more effective years in the league with a younger and quicker partner in the middle. Yes, his salary was high ($275,000 in base and guaranteed in 2012), but his new team, Toronto FC, will surely be paying him a smaller amount in 2013. We knew there are going to be many changes this offseason, and losing Califf is not a surprise, but will the team find a superior defender to replace him next season? Fans of the team better hope true upgrades are on the way.
Scoring Threat: B+
Chivas went 4-0-0 against the Portland Timbers and Toronto FC. Not coincidentally, two of those matches had set piece goals. Danny Califf's goal of a free kick was the last goal conceded by Troy Perkins before he was traded straight up to the Montreal Impact for Donovan Ricketts.
Playmaker (Passing/Creativity): C
Califf's touches plummeted as the season progressed. While he had a good rapport linking with the midfield, his passes looked less sharp later in the season.
As I alluded to earlier, Califf's numbers began diving around the All-Star break. The main culprits were declines in tackles, blocks and interceptions. It would seem to suggest Califf was getting worn down. As much as I like Califf for the intangibles he brought, he was on the wrong side of 30 and his contract was an albatross.
- Matthew Hoffman
Well, we already know Califf jumped ship (and I don't blame him). The guy has a family and needs the job security. Oh, and he's a great defender and deserves more from the team he's playing on. He was a great acquisition for us, and unless we get someone seasoned in MLS or a similar league to replace him, I think he will be sorely missed.
- Rachna Kapur
What do you think? Leave a comment below!