CHESTER, Pa. – With the trade of captain Danny Califf to Chivas USA now official, the Philadelphia Union have lost a veteran center back who has started 67 of the 75 games in franchise history.
Prepared to slide over into that vacant spot is Sheanon Williams, who’s quickly proving to be the club's most versatile defender. So far this season, the 22-year-old has played right back, left back and center back, helping to ease the concerns about a backline that’s been mostly in flux.
“You know, it’s whatever we need,” Williams told MLSsoccer.com. “You can’t be picky when the team needs you.”
In addition to being one of the Union’s top defenders, Williams is also well on his way to becoming one of their most seasoned veterans – despite 2012 being only his third season in MLS. One of the last holdovers from the Union’s 2010 expansion season, Williams was even mentioned by Philly manager Peter Nowak as someone in line to wear the captain’s armband following Califf’s exit.
MISS: Williams heads just over
Nowak showed similar confidence in Williams when he claimed that the right back should have no trouble adjusting to center back.
“To me, it’s the easiest position to play,” Nowak said. “He’s a great defender, very good with the ball and not afraid to go forward. I think he will embrace the position in a pretty good way.”
Still, while Williams has experience at center back both professionally and with the US youth national team structure, he prefers right back, mainly because it allows him to use his speed and get up and down the field.
“Right back, center back – I defend first,” Williams said. “But I like to attack and that’s obviously hard to do when you’re playing center back. Right back is definitely where I’m most comfortable, where I’ve played the longest and definitely where I feel most at home.”
Perhaps down the road Williams will return to his more favored position on the right side, but for now he’s needed – and willing – to play center back alongside stalwart Carlos Valdés. The fullback spots will likely be occupied by upstart rookie Raymon Gaddis and Gabriel Farfan, who is set to return from a three-game suspension Saturday against FC Dallas (8:30 pm ET, TCN).
That leaves Chris Albright and Porfirio López as the only natural defenders on the Philly bench, but neither of them has played much in recent weeks.
Does that mean the Union could make another move later this season to help out Williams and the rest of the club’s backline?
“It’s still important to see what the next couple of weeks and months bring us with the transfer window opening soon,” Nowak said. “We need to make sure we can strengthen the position.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com.