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

Thursday, May 24, 2012


Wednesday, he became the center of attention without even knowing it.

Sheanon Williams walked into the PPL Park media room, took a spot behind a table at the podium and took off his Boston Bruins hat.

I asked Williams, a Boston native, if he expected the Celtics to take down the 76ers in the teams' Eastern Conference semifinal series.

"Hopefully," Williams said, "we close it out tonight."

Of course the Celtics didn't, but Williams drew a good laugh from the reporters in the room. Like it or not, Williams is at the center of more than basketball chatter. He's at the center of the Union's defense these days, a beleaguered unit that had been among one the league's stingiest at the start of the season. Williams was shifted to that part of the pitch following the trade of veteran centerback Danny Califf to Chivas USA.

Williams, an anchor at the right back spot since signing with the Union in August 2010, played centerback in the five matches Califf missed this season, for various reasons. He'll play alongside de facto captain Carlos Valdes there for the foreseeable future.

“Me and the coaches have had a conversation," Williams said. "And that's what I'll do moving forward, and we'll leave it at that."

Williams said he hasn't encountered any pitfalls in learning the position.

“I don't mean to disrespect any centerbacks, but for anybody to change, it's probably one of the easiest transitions," Williams said. "It's a lot of just reading the game and, if you can do that, you can be pretty successful. I would definitely say it's a lot easier than right back or left back or any other position."

Of course, switching positions means Williams is a tad hampered when it comes to making runs into the offensive third.

“Obviously you won't see me up on the wings," he said. "My first responsibility is to defend, have good shape, watch against counters, things like that. … I can't really give away the ball. I'm the last person except for whoever's in goal. It's a defend-first position."

Union boss Peter Nowak said, in the days after the trade of Califf, that he views Williams "like a captain," playing beside Valdes. Not bad for a guy who's been a pro for fewer than two full seasons.

“It says that Peter and the coaching staff has trust in me," Williams said. "It's a great honor."

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