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A Philadelphia Union blog hosted by Christopher A. Vito and Matthew De George

Friday, March 23, 2012


The U.S. national team callup of right back Sheanon Williams caught the Union by surprise, but it's not unprecedented nor was it out of the question.

And according to an official from U.S. Soccer and another from Major League Soccer, Union boss Peter Nowak wouldn't have been in wrong to block Williams' late callup to join the U.S. U-23s for a CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying tournament. Nowak had said Wednesday “it's not possible” to block Williams' callup.

“Because this tournament is not on a FIFA international date, there is no requirement for a club here or in Europe to release players,” Neil Buethe, the communications coordinator for U.S. Soccer said to me Wednesday. “On a related note, I will say MLS has been very supportive of permitting players to participate for qualification tournaments in the Olympics and World Cup.”

“There's always been a symbiotic relationship between U.S. Soccer and MLS,” Will Kuhns, Major League Soccer's director of communications, told me Wednesday, “but there is no requirement.”

Nowak was unnerved Wednesday during a press conference at PPL Park, where he said he detested Williams' callup to join the U-23s despite missing the training camp that precipitated the Olympic qualifying tournament.

According to the U.S. Soccer and MLS officials, Nowak would have had ground to stand on to block Williams' callup. But, let's be honest, even if Nowak was surprised by the timing of Williams' callup, what coach is going to stymie a player's national-team visibility and progress?

“Everybody got caught by surprise because Sheanon wasn't in the last two camps with the national team, with the U-23s,” Nowak said. “It was communicated by the coach at the end of the January camp … and we saw the final roster – not the final roster, but the roster that was called a day after the Portland game that Sheanon might not be in the plans for the national team. We didn't have any kind of indication during that time that he might be called up last minute.

“Our understanding was that – and I was part of this process four years ago (as an assistant coach) – you take the numbers and players (so) that, if something happens, you have enough players in camp that you don't move anybody from outside the pool that you have,” added Nowak. “It was a drastic change. He wasn't with the team for 10 days. It's a little bit of an adjustment for all of us.”

Without Williams, the Union will have to look elsewhere for support on the right side of the backline for Saturday's match at Chicago. It's yet to be determined what the defensive four will look like, especially considering the Danny Califf scenario and Porfirio Lopez's callup earlier this week.

Williams, and Union teammates Freddy Adu and Amobi Okugo continue their time with the U.S. U-23s through next week.

(Times staff photo / JULIA WILKINSON)

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