Conor Casey has been a professional soccer player for 14 years. So naturally, he took a few moments to think when asked if he’s ever played with anyone who can throw a soccer ball as far as Sheanon Williams can.
When he answered, it revealed the unique ability that Williams has.
“I can’t think of any,” Casey told MLSsoccer.com. “No.”
It’s something Casey and the rest of his Philadelphia Union teammates are certainly enjoying.
In their past four games, the Union have netted three goals off Williams’ throw-ins, the most recent coming Sunday at D.C. United when Amobi Okugo flicked a Williams throw to Jack McInerney, who scored his second goal of the game to help the Union earn a 3-2 victory.
Before that, Casey directly headed in a Williams throw-in for a goal against the New York Red Bulls in a 2-1 defeat on March 30. And it was Williams running from his right back position to the left side of the field and launching the ball into the box that led to Philly’s stoppage-time equalizer vs. Toronto FC on April 13.
“It’s just a weapon that we have right now and our team is taking advantage of those opportunities,” Union manager John Hackworth said. “That’s something in the past we haven’t really capitalized on. But right now we are.”
Indeed, Williams has been showcasing his strong arm ever since he joined the Union near the end of the franchise’s inaugural 2010 season. But with only one notable exception – the 2011 season opener at the Houston Dynamo – it never yielded much in the way of goals.
“Last year we were doing the throw-ins too but we didn’t have that physical presence that Conor brings,” McInerney said. “He stands out there and takes out a couple of guys or gets the flick on it. Obviously that’s creating chances for us. We’re going to use it obviously if it’s working.”
For Williams, the main objective of his long throws is to simply get the ball into the box. He knows it’s rare for a player to head a throw directly into goal, as Casey did a few weeks ago. But he also knows that if a teammate can get their head on it and the ball falls to the ground inside the penalty area, then that can create a very good scoring opportunity.
And he's been thrilled at the offense his throws have been able to create so far this season.
“We want to treat it as a set piece,” Williams said. “And it’s been working for us.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSSoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org