TORONTO – There’s an interesting new development in the Danny Califf saga at Toronto FC.
TFC general manager Kevin Payne told sportsnet.ca on Tuesday that Califf, whose last MLS appearance for the Reds came almost two months ago, asked for some time off so that he could return home to California to be with his family.
“He has some family and personal matters to deal with, so we gave him the time off,” Payne revealed.
Coach Ryan Nelsen said he hopes to have Califf back soon: “He’s just got some stuff at the moment he has to sort out of a personal nature. So we’re just giving him a bit of time.”
There’s been plenty of speculation in recent weeks about Califf’s future in Toronto, with one report stating that TFC was close to completing a trade for him with the Philadelphia Union before it eventually fell through. On Tuesday, Payne claimed TFC isn’t looking to trade or waive Califf, and also said that even if the club could buy him out of his contract, which it can’t, they wouldn’t do that.
“We like Danny. I think Danny will be a part of this organization,” Payne affirmed.
Califf, 33, was selected by TFC during last December’s MLS re-entry draft. At the time, Payne heralded Califf, who played over 200 regular-season games over nine MLS campaigns before joining Toronto, as someone who will help shore up a leaky defence that conceded a league-high 62 goals in 2012.
He started the first four games of the current MLS season, but he hasn’t played a league game since April 30 when the Reds earned a 2-2 draw with L.A. According to Nelsen, he’s missed subsequent matches due to the flu, a stomach virus, and knee and back injuries.
Califf has also fallen down the depth chart, with Nelsen preferring to play youngsters Doneil Henry (20) and Gale Agbossoumonde (21), and on-loan veteran Steven Caldwell. When Califf has been fit since losing his place as a starter, he’s been an unused substitute or hasn’t dressed on game days.
Last week, Nelsen maintained that Califf would get his chance to play again once he becomes fit. Payne weighed in on the matter on Tuesday, stating that Califf “remains in our plans” even though he’s struggled to earn regular playing time this season.
“We have some young guys who’ve played well and we want to give them a chance. There’s better competition now between Gale and Doneil. Caldwell has a done a good job, as well,” Payne offered. “Danny is an MLS veteran and he’s a guy that we like, and he remains in our plans.”
Payne said he isn’t terribly surprised that Califf hasn’t started every game this season.
“He’s an older player who has had some issues with his knees. We knew that he wasn’t going to be an every game, 90-minute player. But he has helped our team in a lot of other ways even when he’s not been playing,” Payne said.
SPORTSNET.CA could not reach Danny Califf for comment on this story.
More action for Koevermans
With TFC’s next seven games coming on natural grass surfaces, Danny Koevermans will “definitely” see more playing time, according to Nelsen.
The Dutch forward recently returned following a lengthy layoff due to a knee injury, coming on as a late substitute in a 1-1 draw against Philadelphia earlier this month.
Nelsen has been cautious in working Koevermans back into the lineup, especially in games with artificial surfaces – he didn’t even travel to Pittsburgh for a recent reserve game in order to improve his fitness because the match was not contested on real grass.
“We want to play him as many minutes as we can over the next few weeks,” Nelsen stated.
NOTES: Nelsen said Richard Eckersley is getting closer to returning to full training sessions but is still a few weeks away from being fit for game action. The English defender, who worked out on his own during Tuesday’s team practice, hasn’t played since April 6 because of a hamstring injury… Nelsen also revealed that forward Andrew Wiedeman has suffered a slight MCL knee strain and could miss up to two weeks of action… Backup goalkeeper Stefan Frei was back in full training on Tuesday. He’s missed the past few games through injury.