Rash of injuries direct cause of Philly struggles on defense

Sheanon Williams

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CHESTER, Pa. – For the Philadelphia Union, the 2012 season ended with three straight losses in which they surrendered a total of eight goals.

It’s probably not a coincidence that starting fullbacks Sheanon Williams and Gabriel Farfan played only a combined 64 minutes during that stretch.

Both players were hampered by ankle injuries and were forced to sit out as the Union struggled to slow down the high-powered offenses of Houston, Sporting Kansas City and New York.

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“Any time a few guys on the backline go down it hurts,” Williams told MLSsoccer.com following Philly’s 3-0 loss to the Red Bulls in their 2012 finale. “Anybody that was sitting up in the booth with me knows I’d rather be playing. It sucks. It was hard being in [the locker room] at the beginning, watching teammates get ready and put on their cleats and you’re just sitting here in street clothes.”

To replace the two fullbacks, the Union started rookie Ray Gaddis on one side and used both midfielder Michael Lahoud and seldom-used veteran reserve Chris Abright on the other.

While it wasn’t entirely the fault of their revamped backline, the eight goals the Union gave up was the most in a three-game stretch since last September.

“It’s tough watching any game when you’re injured,” Farfan said. “Obviously you always want to be out there battling and fighting for your team and getting the win, especially if there’s a good offense you’re playing against. Those are the games we always get up for.”

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Farfan said he had a stress reaction in his left ankle, while Williams noted he “did something” to his right ankle after taking a hard tackle during training.

While the timing of those injuries was poor in the sense that they happened around the same time, the good news is that both players now have many months to heal heading into the 2013 campaign.

“The offseason is great timing,” Williams added. “I’ll get both by my ankle and foot healed up and get ready for next season.”

“I think it’s perfect timing,” Farfan added. “I’ve been sitting for like a week-and-a-half, so it’s nice to get a couple of weeks of doing absolutely nothing and recovering and letting the body heal before the next preseason.”

Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at djzeitlin@gmail.com.