For most of the Philadelphia Union’s expansion season in 2010, Sheanon Williams was an inexperienced 20-year-old forward for the USL-Pro’s Harrisburg City Islanders.
And jaded by failed tryouts in Europe and MLS, he thought that signing with the Union very late in the 2010 season might only be temporary.
But on Saturday at PPL Park, when the Union host Sporting Kansas City in the final game of the 2013 regular season, Williams will become the first player to play 100 games for the Union – an unlikely milestone he never saw coming.
“To be honest, I didn’t think I would play a single game in that first season,” Williams told MLSsoccer.com following Tuesday’s training. “Coming from Harrisburg, playing forward the whole season there, I was really just trying to get my feet wet and hopefully get invited back for preseason the next year.”
It didn’t take long, though, for Williams to prove his worth. After sitting on the bench for his first game with the Union, he was given the start in Philly’s next contest, where he helped his new club pick up a 1-0 win over the Chicago Fire for their first shutout in franchise history.
From that point on, Williams has been a fixture at right back, signing a contract extension at the end of the 2011 season that will keep him in Philly through at least 2015.
“To be on the bench for my first game was a surprise,” Williams said. “Then to be named a starter the next game was definitely a shock. I made sure to text my mom real quick and tell her to watch the game because I was actually playing in it. It was definitely a good time for me.”
Although there have been some rocky moments for the Union over the past couple of seasons, Williams has been a stabilizing force for Philly, emerging as arguably one of the league’s top right backs and providing cover at center back when needed.
One easy metric to assess his value: when Williams takes the field Saturday, it will not only be his 100th game but also his 100th start.
“To have it on the last game of the season and to have it be at home,” he said, “is pretty special.”
Like many American players, the 23-year-old defender has dreams of perhaps playing in Europe one day. But if those opportunities don’t arise, Williams would be perfectly happy to stay in Philly and remain the all-time leader in games played for his first MLS team.
“If I’m in MLS, it would be great to be with the Union,” Williams said. “They’re a team that gave me a chance when a lot of other teams thought I wasn’t good enough. I will always owe something back to the Union.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.