Fire defender Francisco Calvo is not shy. Ask him about the team’s performance or which position he prefers, Calvo will tell you and do so in a colorful and interesting way.
But even more important than providing a juicy quote, Calvo’s personality is valued by coach Raphael Wicky and the Fire (4-8-4, 16 points).
“Since the first day, in terms of off the field and in the locker room, Francisco (has been) doing a great job of stepping into that leadership position and function,” Wicky said. “Like we saw in January when a lot of the core guys of this team from last year were not here anymore, some other players had to step in and Francisco did that from day one and as a captain, he’s a good leader. He’s a vocal guy. He is good in the locker room. So, I’m very happy with that.”
Clearly, Wicky and the Fire are happy with Calvo.
They made Calvo their captain after the departure of Dax McCarty, and recently exercised his 2021 contract option. He’s started all 16 of the Fire’s games and was in the middle of his best stretch since coming from Minnesota United in a trade last May before picking up a caution Wednesday that will lead to a suspension for Sunday’s match against DC United (2-9-5, 11 points) due to yellow card accumulation.
“I think I just try to do my best every time I step on the field,” Calvo said. “Outside of the field, I just try to push my teammates, try to keep the team always together and just fight for our goals. But first of all, it’s to get to [the] playoffs and then we’ll see what happens.”
Fire goalie Bobby Shuttleworth played with Calvo in Minnesota and praised both his leadership and playing ability. He also noted how Calvo, who appeared in two matches during the 2018 World Cup for Costa Rica, works hard in training.
The way Calvo approaches practice, Shuttleworth said, is contagious through a locker room. In fact, Shuttleworth said when players see that, they “don’t really have a choice: You’re either grinding or you’re not going to play.”
“I think he’s the type of guy that he leads with a good attitude, but also he’s willing to listen and he learns,” Shuttleworth said. “If you try to have a conversation with him about [soccer], he’s going to listen and take it all in, and I think that is big for someone who is taking up a leadership role in this locker room and important for especially younger players to see that kind of attitude and see the work that he puts in.”
Beyond his personality, Wicky wants Calvo to win challenges, claim headers and step in front of opponents. Wicky said Calvo has done that, but still has room to grow.
“On the field, Francisco brings good quality,” Wicky said. “Francisco knows, as well, clearly, where I want him to improve. We obviously speak about that. But we all see his potential, and we all see his qualities and what he brings to the team and we’re happy to have him for the next season.”