WAYNE, Pa. – First, it was Roger Torres. Now, it’s Sheanon Williams.
In both cases, the message from the Philadelphia Union is clear: If you’re young and have a lot of potential, you will be rewarded with a new contract.
On Wednesday, the Union announced they had reached a long-term deal with the 21-year-old Williams, the club’s starting right back. The announcement comes about three weeks after Philadelphia exercised their option to retain the services of 20-year-old midfielder Torres, who had been on loan.
“I think with this new deal, the team is trying to build and trying to get all of the young players together and have a good group of guys for a long time,” Williams said in a conference call with reporters on Wednesday. “With everything that happened with Roger, he’s a great player and we’re happy to have him. We want to have a good core group of guys and we just want to build for the future. And I think the team’s done a good job in doing that.”
While Torres and some of Philly’s other youngsters have been used mostly in reserve capacities as they adjust to MLS, Williams has been a starter on the backline almost ever since signing with the team late in the 2010 season from Philly’s USL-Pro affiliate, the Harrisburg City Islanders.
Union manager Peter Nowak admitted Williams’ original deal was not a lucrative one, but it did offer the young defender an opportunity to make his mark. And he did just that, emerging as one of the league’s most reliable right backs.
“I hope everyone will be like Sheanon in this capacity and say, 'Listen, this is my chance. I’m going to do my best to stick around and show them I deserve more than this,’” Nowak said. “It was difficult for him in terms of his contract situation and money, but he took it and ran with it. So he got rewarded for that.”
Terms of the contract were not disclosed but Nowak did say that Williams “will have a secure future with us.” And because of that extra security, Williams said he was “extremely happy” about the new deal.
“I walked into a great situation here,” Williams told MLSsoccer.com after a recent practice. “Two years ago, with me getting to play the last eight games to last year getting all of those starts, I’m happy here. I think where I’m at right now is good for me.”
Like Williams, Torres expressed pleasure that the Union made it a priority to keep him around, telling reporters earlier in the preseason that he “feels better now that I’m a part of this family.” And with so many young players feeling more secure and confident, the crafty young midfielder also expressed excitement about the club’s prospects for the 2012 season.
“We have a good team,” Torres said, “that can do very interesting things this year.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Philadelphia Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.