Defender Williams feels pressure to perform in what many hope is breakthrough season

 

Sheanon Williams will be the first to tell you that the 2014 season was not his best.

After starting almost every game for the Philadelphia Union from late in the club’s 2010 expansion season through 2013, the right back battled through injuries this past year and ended up playing almost 800 fewer minutes than he did the season before.

And now, heading into the final year of his contract in 2015, Williams knows his place in the lineup isn’t exactly secure, even if he is the club’s all-time leader in games played (124) and one of the only remaining players that helped lead the Union to their last playoff berth in 2011.

“It puts pressure on me,” Williams told MLSsoccer.com in a phone interview. “Not a bad pressure. It’s a good pressure...Everyone has to earn their place on the field. Nobody gets to just show up in the preseason and have a starting job.”

Coming into the 2014 season, Williams was expected to provide veteran leadership on a young backline. But he partially tore his right quad late in the preseason and didn’t return to the starting lineup until mid-April.

From there, the fullback was shuffled through different spots of Philly’s backline and was uncharacteristically held out of the lineup on a few occasions. Still, the 24-year-old defender continued to show his attacking prowess from the back, netting a career-high three goals and adding four assists.

“For me, it was up and down and inconsistent,” Williams said. “Injured, not injured. Center back, right back, left back. Not having the consistency I’m used to. I hadn’t really had injuries throughout my time in Philly, so with all the changes in position and the injuries and what not, some games I was good and some games I was too inconsistent.”

Williams acknowledges he’ll have to improve his consistency to return to the level he was at earlier in his Union tenure, especially with the emergence of fullback Ray Gaddis and the likelihood that Philly will sign a new left back in the offseason.

But he said he’s excited about the prospect of the Union returning to head coach Jim Curtin’s preferred grind-it-out, defensive style – the same style that helped Philly make the playoffs in 2011. And the Boston native is not lacking for motivation as he’s watched the New England Revolution’s magical run to the MLS Cup while counting down the days until the preseason begins.

“Nobody wants to see this franchise accomplish something more than me and some of the other guys that have been here from the start,” Williams said. “Hopefully next year will be our year.”

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

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