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Season review: Sheanon Williams

Featured image: Earl Gardner

Editor’s note: At the end of the 2010 season, we posted a series of season reviews of every Philadelphia Union player. Over the next several weeks PSP continues with a review of the 2011 season.

Some players get passed over because teams don’t think they have the size or the speed to make it at the next level. Some players ride the pine because they plateau and never fulfill their potential.

Sheanon Williams is listed as 5’11”. And he has the speed. Since arriving in Philadelphia, The Sheanomenon has emerged as the rare player who excels on both ends of the pitch. In 2010, he made the right back position his own. In 2011, the team acknowledged their young fullback’s gifts by designing a tactical system that left space on the right flank for him to exploit.

Make no mistake though: Sheanon Williams is no Corey Ashe. He is no midfielder masquerading as a wingback. Union midfielders often dropped into the box when the ball went wide, leaving Williams alone against the opposition’s best crosser. And I think we all know who won those individual battles.

Philadelphia’s young core is one of the best in MLS. Of the five Union players called up to the US U-23 camp this month, four were top seven picks in the MLS SuperDraft. The other was Sheanon Williams.

And yet, the player who has progressed the most in the past two years is clearly The Sheanomenon. While the big names struggled for minutes and consistency, Williams never wavered. Sometimes he was asked to stay deep behind Michael Farfan. Other games he had the entire flank to himself. Once he even seamlessly transitioned into central defense.

Peter Nowak’s bold decision to operate without any real defensive cover was a huge gamble. But one of the main reasons it worked was Williams’ consistent form. Despite suffering more fouls than any other Union player (42), the Union right back rarely slowed down and even made a few memorable saves. His long throw became a dangerous weapon, even if the team never quite figured out what to do with it.

In short, Sheanon Williams had an outstanding season. He was named to the MLS Team of the Week twice (Weeks 7 & 16) and he capped the year with a commanding shut down of MVP candidate Brad Davis in the second leg of the Union’s MLS playoff matchup with Houston.

High Point

During the Union’s 2-1 win over Chicago in May, Williams was in the zone for almost the full ninety minutes. Peter Nowak’s post-match comments centered on how many times the Union missed Williams’ runs up the wing. When he wasn’t taking off upfield, Williams was manhandling Marco Pappa and making a sliding goal line save. Late in the match, it was again Williams throwing his body in front of the goal as Chicago pressed for an equalizer. The Sheanomenon was slow to get up after taking a blast to the gut. But he did get up. And then he was flying up the wing one last time.

Low Point

A red card against Colorado. Frankly, it was an incredible call. Williams was upset about a call and got sent off for arguing. How about some context: The referee sprinted across the field and got in Williams’ face as the Union player attempted to jog back to his position. I can say with certainty that they don’t teach you that in ref school. They teach you to calm things down, not ramp them up.

Strengths

The long throw, the long runs, and the long minutes. For all the attention he gets when he bombs up the wing, Sheanon Williams is a quietly impressive defender. Those 42 fouls suffered come from a lot of ornery strikers who lost the ball in the final third.

Weaknesses

Aerial play and set piece defending needs to improve. Perhaps the one thing that Williams can most improve, though, is his shooting. His soccer intellect is very high, and the long passes he plays into the feet of strikers open up runs on goal that make Williams look like Glen Johnson (on Johnson’s good days). Adding the finishing element would make Sheanon Williams one of the elite American fullbacks and it will get him that look-in from Jurgen Klinsmann that he deserves.

Outlook

Pay the man! Williams deserves a raise and a commitment from the team. If he sees the field during the U-23 World Cup, Sheanon may be in line for bigger and better things sooner than expected. One thing is clear: Any improvements on his 2011 season will see Sheanon Williams become a perennial MLS All-Star, and the first young Union player to make the leap to stardom.

*Stat chart legend:
POS: Position; GP: Games Played; GS: Games Started; MINS: Minutes; PA: Passes Attempted; PC: Passes Completed; P%: Passing Accuracy Percentage; SHTS: Shots Faced; SV: Saves; GA: Goals Allowed; GAA: Goals Allowed Average; PKG/A: Penalty Goals/Attempted; W; Wins; L: Losses; T: Ties; ShO: Shutouts; W%: Win Percentage; SV%: Save Percentage; FC: Fouls Committed; FS: Fouls Suffered; YC: Yellow Cards; RC: Red Cards

2 Comments

  1. I have two quotes for the Sheanomenon

    “Great works are performed not by strength but by perseverance.” ~ Samuel Johnson

    The kid has definatly shown great perseverance to get to where he is at today and there is no limit to where he can get to.

    My second quote to the Sheanomenon

    “The greatest revenge is to accomplish what others say you cannot do.”

  2. “Pay the man!”

    +1

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