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Season review: Sheanon Williams

Editor’s note: PSP is running season reviews for each Philadelphia Union player — one per weekday for the next few weeks. You can read all the reviews here.

One year was enough at UNC

On August 31, 2010, when the Union picked up Sheanon Williams from the Harrisburg City Islanders, the hope was that he could become the speedy outside fullback that would allow Michael Orozco Fiscal to move back to the center of the pitch and provide the defense with some much needed depth.

Isn’t it great when you get exactly what you’re looking for?

Despite being unable to secure a contract with VfL Wolfsburg (Germany) or FC Twente (Netherlands) upon leaving the University of North Carolina after only one year, Williams has the type of pedigree that is rarely available in a midseason acquisition. A former member of the US U-17 residency program, Williams has featured four times for the U-17 national team and twice for the U-20s.

Since arriving, he has started every match for the Union, keeping Cristian Arrieta firmly rooted to the bench. While his defensive positioning and awareness have left something to be desired, it is his blistering pace and ability to attack up the right flank that has the Union faithful clamoring to see more. Despite the lack of time with his Union teammates, Williams has slotted in seamlessly and, thus far in his brief stint at PPL, the Union are much better for his presence.

2010 statistics

8 games (8 starts). 720 minutes played. 0 goals, 0 assists, 4 shots (3 on goal). 12 fouls caused, 7 fouls suffered. 0 yellow cards. He played the full 90 in every match in which he appeared.

High point

Not so fast Landon. (Photo: Daniel Gajdamowicz)

Against the Los Angeles Galaxy in this season’s penultimate match, Union fans were treated to a glimpse of the future from Williams.  His attacking prowess created problems for LA’s defense and they grew increasingly reluctant to attack on his wing. A fullback whose offensive presence can strike fear into an opponent is a valuable commodity, and this match gave a teaser of what is hopefully to come. In the final home match of the season, the “Sheanon Williams Experiment” era ended and the “Sheanon Williams, starting right back for the Philadelphia Union” era, began.

Low point

His first match for the Union was the friendly against Chivas de Guadalajara. He looked a complete bundle of nerves and played without confidence. Fortunately, the coaches and Union faithful needed only to see him chase down an opposing striker to realize that he is a player worth investing time and effort.


Prepare ship for Ludicrous Speed! (Photo: Paul Rudderow)

Pace. You can’t teach it. You either have it or you don’t. Sheanon Williams has it in abundance. Couple that with his eagerness to get forward in the attack and the Union have themselves the makings of a right fullback who can occupy the position for years to come. Do not forget that, despite having bounced around twith a number of teams, he is still only 20 years old, which puts him in with the Union’s youthful core of Mwanga, Torres, MacInerney and Okugo.

The enormous throw-ins. Williams can easily put the ball into the 18-yard box from most throws in the attacking half and, if the Union can work in some strategic short options to keep opposing defenses guessing, they will find themselves with a dangerous weapon.


With experience comes awareness. With an offseason to train with the team, Williams will learn to make better decisions about when to attack and when to stay home. Once Michael Orozco and Danny Califf settled together in the center of the Union’s defense they were able to provide cover for Williams attacking forays, but the Union’s second season should see BOTH outside fullbacks showing attacking intent. This will require Williams to pick his spots more judiciously in order to protect against the counterattack.

As with any attacking fullback, providing well-paced, accurate service is crucial. A long, probing run down the right flank is only as dangerous as the ball played into the attacking area at the end. Lest we forget, pace without purpose equals Robbie Findley. Pin-point accuracy in his crossing would allow Williams to set himself apart in MLS.


A Union player we can cheer for with the Nats?

Bright.  Anytime a starting XI-caliber player drops into your lap, it’s a good thing, and Sheanon Williams has all the makings of a player who can lay claim to the right fullback slot for years to come. Expect to see his name on the protected players list when it comes time for the expansion draft, because a player of his age with the rare combination of pace, skill and knowledge is a valuable find. All too often, players are billed as having excellent speed, only to turn out to be Marvel Wynne, an athlete with straight ahead track speed, but zero agility and even less of an idea about what to do with a ball at their feet.

Williams does not just have speed; he has quickness. He will grow and mature with more match time and offseason training with the Union. For all we know, a few years of MLS experience could see him play his way into the senior national team. Not too bad for a player plucked out of USL-2.

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