The circumstances have changed, but not his work ethic.
When Sheanon Williams arrives at work each day, it’s to work and get better.
The only difference between last season and this season is that Williams was with the Union from the beginning.
As a rookie, Williams signed with the Union on Aug. 31, 2010, from the Harrisburg City Islanders, the club’s USL affiliate.
Williams thoroughly impressed the technical staff with his skills, anchored by his speed, marking ability and talent for long throw-ins. The defender earned a starting spot and locked it down, ending Philadelphia's carousel at right back. He carried the experience from eight starts into year No. 2.
Williams said that initial playing time and exposure to the level of play in Major League Soccer was huge as he entered this season.
“It helped for sure,” Williams said after a recent training session. “Really, it’s the little things you pick up each day in training and in the games. I remember being so nervous before my first match and how much that changed as the season went on. Then as this season approached, I came in and was more relaxed.
“It didn’t change how I trained or approached each day. I was just more familiar with everything and I think that helped a lot.”
Williams has played a major role in the Union’s 4-3-2 start, good for second place in the Eastern Conference, just one point behind the New York Red Bulls.
Williams’ play has hardly gone unnoticed as he was named to MLSSoccer.com’s Team of the Week for Week 7 following the Union’s 1-0 victory over the San Jose Earthquakes. In that match, the right back was supremely steady while limiting San Jose's attack, which was stagnant despite a man advantage.
“He played a great match,” said fellow defender Danny Califf. “He was physical when he needed to be and he did everything you could ask for and more.”
In the next match, a 1-0 road loss to Portland, the 21-year-old was arguably even better. Playing centrally in place of Califf, who didn't travel due to a sickness, Williams was all over the field in a dominant all around showing.
“I know a lot of people said he did really well and gave him a lot of praise and asked why we didn’t do this before," said coach John Hackworth. "It’s interesting. It shows how versatile he is.”
It goes to show that Williams – who played center back at the University of North Carolina and also has experience playing as a midfielder and forward – is a soccer player before anything else.
But it's in a right back role with the Union that the former U.S. U-20 international has truly launched his professional career and begun to make a name for himself around the league.
Williams played 720 minutes in eight league matches last season for the Union. This season, he has already logged 793 minutes in nine league matches.
The minutes are well-deserved, and Williams – who bounced around a fair amount before latching on with Philadelphia – appears to be getting more and more comfortable as the season wears on.
“I feel really good about my game right now, and I know how hard it was to get to this point,” said Williams, who played 1,402 total minutes of league action for the Islanders in 2010 en route to being named the ‘Upper 90’ City Islanders Rookie of the Year. “At the same time, I know how much work goes into training every day. I come in with a good attitude every day and listen to the coaches. I trust my teammates and enjoy playing with them. It’s a great situation and I don’t take it for granted."