CHIVAS: Califf done? Depends who's talking
Union manager Peter Nowak announced at his weekly news conference Wednesday that Califf, a 32-year-old center back from Orange, would be exchanged to Chivas “for a player and something else” and that the trade was in “the league process of confirming some stuff.”
Nowak said a lot more, and the reverberations were felt all the way to Field 6 at Home Depot Center, where Goats general manager Jose Domene bustled onto the turf as the morning training session was breaking up, saying he needed to talk to head coach Robin Fraser.
Moments later, Fraser was rushing off to his office, with Domene, right behind, noting that they “have to put out a fire.”
Chivas' official stance on the Califf deal is that there's not a deal, not yet. Talks are going on, they begrudgingly acknowledge, and Fraser said, when asked if he expected something to be finalized before the weekend: “Yes. Something being finalized, yes.”
That something also could be that Califf (Orange HS) isn't coming, although when pressed to whether it could be finalized “either way,” Fraser made it sound as if it's going to happen.
“At this point I would say ...,” he said, before pausing in thought for several seconds, “I guess until any deal is done, you can't say for sure.”
Nowak seems to be saying for sure. He provided plenty of detail at his news conference in Chester, Pa., although even he hedged a little, admitting “we are are still in the process of concluding this trade.”
Nowak said a second team, which he would not identify, also has approached the Union about Califf, and he has kept the veteran defender apprised of what's going on.
“We’ve been in contact every day, getting his mind to embrace the whole situation,” Nowak said. “He mentioned that at some point it was going to be time to go home with his family and go back to California. This will happen sooner or later. We decided to conclude this trade, and that’s the situation. It will be confirmed soon. It’s not up for us to release this stuff, it’s a league process. It’s not our deal, it’s a process we have to be involved in but need to respect it.”
He wouldn't specify what Chivas would give up to get Califf but confirmed that Goats star Juan Pablo Angel was not on the table. Domene said so, too, that the Colombian striker's name had not been mentioned, “not from us to them or them to us.”
Teen forward Jack McInerney, reported to be coming to Chivas with Califf, also had not been mentioned in talks, Domene said.
Neither Fraser nor Domene would comment on tenor of the talks, but a source within the club confirmed the league was involved and that budgetary issues had slowed things down. Califf, who played alongside Fraser and Chivas assistant coach Greg Vanney with the Galaxy during his first years in the league, made $250,000 last year, according to the MLS Players Union. The union has not yet released 2012 salary figures.
A league source indicated the deal was imminent.
Asked if Califf were coming, Fraser responded: “I'm not sure how to answer that, to be quite honest. We're certainly in the thick of a discussion. I hate to be evasive, but I can't say more than that. We're very much in the midst of a discussion with them.”
It's the oddest such discussion they've had since Fraser and Domene took charge following the 2010 season. Negotiations are almost universally a private affair in MLS -- nobody talks about what teams are talking about -- and Nowak's decision to go public is very rare.
He did so at first Sunday, revealing following the Union's loss to New York that an offer from a club he would not identify, except to say that it wasn't Vancouver, had been made for Califf, his captain. A few hours later, he went further, saying Chivas USA had made a pitch and, when it was turned down, made a second pitch.
There has been fierce blog and Twitter traffic since, mostly from Union media and supporters, and some a few out-of-nowhere reports. One announced that Chivas USA had set a Monday news conference to announce the deal, and when the appointed time passed without a word from the Goats, 1 p.m. ET became 1 p.m. PT. Domene went to Twitter to dispel that one: “I heard there was a press conference today at 10am. Really? Because nobody here knows about it...”
Fraser said he was “shocked” to hear Nowak's remarks after a report was read to him following Chivas' 1-1 tie Sunday afternoon at San Jose, and Wednesday he called the the situation “unsettling.”
“I've never seen it done before,” Fraser said when asked is he'd ever negotiated in public. “It's certainly a strange situation, but we are trying to get resolution, and certainly every move we make is with the thought to make the team better, and we're attempting to get resolution as quickly as possible. ... I don't even know how to describe the situation, where it is now, but we're just hoping to get resolution as quickly as possible.”
Domene said it “is the first time for me” to see such talks made public. “It's been different. It's definitely different because that's not the way we do things here. One more experience, right?”