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Season Review: Sheanon Williams

Photo: Earl Gardner

Editor’s note: At the end of the first two Philadelphia Union seasons, we posted a series of end of the season reviews of every Union player. Over the next several weeks, PSP continues with a review of the 2012 season.

It would be hard to say that Sheanon Williams’ 2012 season was a step back for the young defender, but it’d also be hard to say it was a large step forward. Peter Nowak’s lineup tinkering finally caught up with Williams early in the season when he was pushed into a central defense role — a role that did very little to highlight the positive running of the youngster.

A lingering toe injury seemed to plague Williams throughout the season, as well, and often he did not look his fastest moving up and down the right wing. It’s possible that he looked a step slower to Union fans after we caught side of the very speedy Raymon Gaddis, the rookie who pushed Williams at the right back position all season. It will be interesting in 2013 to watch the two compete for time at outside back and to see if one of them will be shifted to the left side.

It must have been a frustrating season for Union defenders with the offense occasionally going missing for weeks at a time and therefore making every defensive lapse all too visible. A blue-collar worker who wears his heart on his sleeve, Williams frustrations were evident throughout the season. If John Hackworth can add the veteran attacking presence (bonus: a tall veteran attacker) that has been so often discussed, Sheanon Williams might be one of the happiest members of the club.

High Point

Everyone remembers Jack McInerney’s header in stoppage time to beat New England in July. But it was Williams who lofted that perfect cross on to the young striker’s head from deep on the right wing. Sheanon’s only goal of the campaign came in September in Toronto, when he equalized just a few minutes from time from an Antoine Hoppenot cross.

Low Point

A not fully fit Williams was roasted all afternoon by New York rookie Connor Lade in the match against the Red Bulls in July. His trial at center back early in the season can be termed unsuccessful without too much fault going to the player. Sure he had previous experience at the position both professionally and with the US youth national team, but the guy clearly preferred to play at right back.


Williams was obviously an offensive player for parts of his career, and this is apparent every time he bombs forward into space on the wing. His speed jumping into the attack combined with decent delivery make him a top wingback in MLS. His long throw has been dangerous for the Union at times but would be a more valuable tool with a bigger lineup up top.

As the 2012 season progressed, Williams began to emerge as a vocal leader on the team. It’s very easy to forget that he’s only 22 years old.


While improving every season, Williams is still sorting out the timing of committing to the attack from the right back position. While he is a serviceable center back when necessity dictates, he has been far from spectacular in the position. His forward running is his best quality, and that is lost when he’s anchored to the center of the defense.


It will be interesting to see what John Hackworth’s plan is for Williams, Ray Gaddis, and Gabe Farfan in regards to the outside back positions. We’re left to wonder if Williams can move to the left, with Gaddis on the right and Farfan pushed into the midfield. Time (and perhaps a few new signings) will tell.

For now, we should assume that Williams will be the starting right back on opening day of 2013, and rightfully so. But don’t think for a second that Ray Gaddis doesn’t have designs on being a starting outside back in the MLS sooner than later. If the two are left to battle it out for the position, it should be a win for Union fans in the end with two fierce competitors looking to maintain a starting role.

Stat chart legend:
POS: Position; GP: Games Played; GS: Games Started; MINS: Minutes; PA: Passes Attempted; PC: Passes Completed; P%: Passing Accuracy Percentage; G: Goals; A: Assists; SOG: Shots on Goal; SOG/S%: Percentage of Shots that are on Goal; G/SOG%: Percentage of Shots on Goal Converted; SC%: Scoring Percentage; G/90min: Goals per 90 minutes; Hm G: Home Goals; Rd G: Road Goals; FC: Fouls Committed; FS: Fouls Suffered; YC: Yellow Cards; RC: Red Cards


  1. James "4-3-3" Forever says:

    I am not a fan of this, imo manufactured, “competition” between Williams and Gaddis.
    Williams has been a YNT player at RB for years, most people looking back realize he would have been the better choice at RB for our Olympic qualifying campaign, he is respected around the league as one of its best RBs. And he still is young enough and has a high enough ceiling to be a European and bubble NT member. – at RB.
    Gaddis? He’s fast! And oh yeah, he didn’t completely bomb out as a rookie.
    Why can’t we be slightly more reasonable and say something like “Gaddis looked really good, it’ll be nice to have such insurance behind Williams and Garfan next year!” instead of trying to tinker and misplace and disrupt?

  2. Mike Servedio says:

    I don’t see it as manufactured competition or a disruption. I also state above that the right back job is Williams’ to lose. But not only did Gaddis “not bomb as a rookie” he was a few times the best player on the field for the Union. If he comes into the preseason in good form, he could certainly challenge for a starting role.

    Williams in his 2011 form was one of the best wingbacks/right backs in MLS. But last year, whether it was the insufficient goalscoring, the toe injury, or a combination, he was at least a step or two away from the fringes of the national team or a move to Europe.

    It is certainly a good thing to have depth at the outside back position and Garfan and Williams should certainly be given the chance to keep starting jobs. But to not include Gaddis in a discussion of the “outlook” of the right back position for the Union is ridiculous.

  3. Cherundolo, chandler, lichaj, Spector, parkhurst in Europe, Myers, beitashour, Williams in mls. The us has a lot of depth at rb and Williams will have to improve a lot to really break in.

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