Williams welcomes grind of first full MLS season

Right back has started all but two games for Philadelphia in '11

CHESTER, Pa. – In recent weeks, Sheanon Williams’s name has been all over the injury report with a concussion, a hamstring contusion and an intercostal strain.

But it’s hardly slowed him down.

This season – his first full one in MLS – the Philadelphia Union right back has started all but two games and has logged 2,648 minutes, more than anyone on the club besides fellow defenders Danny Califf and Carlos Valdés and striker Sébastien Le Toux.

“It’s a long season,” Williams told MLSsoccer.com. “Your body definitely needs a break. That’s why some people get injuries, and I’ve had a couple at the end of the year. But I’m back now and it’s good to feel healthy again.”

While many players around the league are used to being on the field every game, the 21-year-old Williams has never before logged this many minutes.

Last season, the right back spent the entire campaign with Philly’s USL-Pro affiliate, the Harrisburg City Islanders, before playing the final eight games for the Union, logging a total of about 2,000 minutes through both leagues. Before that, he played for the University of North Carolina and the Carolina Dynamo of the USL-PDL, where the seasons are shorter.

“Last year, it was nice to get in eight games for the experience, but then it was right away into the offseason,” Williams said. “This year, I went through the full preseason and all the months that go along with it. It definitely takes a toll on the body.”

A few minor knocks aside, Williams has looked comfortable playing a full season in MLS, where he’s emerged as arguably one of the league’s best right backs. And he’s certainly never shied away from contact or been afraid to mix it up with opposing players.

“Anybody that plays defense knows you’re gonna take your bangs,” Williams said. “And when you play right back and add all that running into it, you’re in for a good physical game, especially in this league.”

But Williams has endured, and it’s not a stretch to say his talent and durability is a big reason why the Union can wrap up a playoff spot with a win or tie over Toronto FC on Saturday at PPL Park (4 pm ET, Comcast SportsNet).

And here’s more good news for Union fans: the fullback is not listed on this week’s injury report.

“I’m feeling good,” Williams said. “I’ve been getting some treatments, and everything’s been good.”

Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at djzeitlin@gmail.com.