Philadelphia Union get a look at Sheanon Williams at center back and they like what they see

Sheanon Williams celebrates vs Crew

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CHESTER, Pa. – Philadelphia Union right back Sheanon Williams had an interesting way to prepare for filling in for the suspended Amobi Okugo at center back alongside Jeff Parke for this past Saturday’s game against the Montreal Impact.

“All week I’ve been calling him Amobi, just from playing next to Amobi,” Williams said of his new partnership with Parke. “There was a little bit of an adjustment trying to get the names right.”

Parke might want to consider actually changing his name if it continues to lead to results like Saturday as Philly’s retooled backline led the Union to their 10th shutout of the season.

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Now, with the scoreless draw against the Montreal Impact in the rearview mirror and Okugo suspended for a second straight game, the Union hope the Williams-Parke center back pairing can be just as effective Sunday night (11 pm ET, ESPN2) against a San Jose Earthquakes team that features attacking standouts Chris Wondolowski, Alan Gordon and Steven Lenhart.

“I guess it’s a good warmup for the three of them,” Williams said.

Even without Okugo, the Union backline certainly did a good job against Golden Boot leader Marco Di Vaio, who was called offside the only times he got into dangerous positions.

As a team, the Impact finished with just one shot on target as the Union matched a franchise record for shutouts in a season.

“Sheanon’s obviously a different player than Amobi, but I thought Parke and Sheanon did a good job reading each other,” Union manager John Hackworth said. “Sheanon was in particularly really good against Di Vaio. He was aware of where he was at all times and he moved the backline accordingly.”

Hackworth also commended the communication and chemistry between the two center backs. In the 55th minute, for example, Parke and Williams made sliding tackles within seconds of each other to clear away any danger at the edge of the box.

“Me and Jeff both like to talk, so that keeps both of us alert,” Williams said. “I think that helps, especially with me playing center back, which isn’t my natural position. Jeff made some key blocks and was definitely in my ear any time there was danger. I thought we both did a good job.”

Parke was just as complimentary of Williams, saying that his new partner at center back “can play any position in the back.” But Parke also knows the new-look backline will have its work cut out for it against the Earthquakes.

“It’s going to be a whole different ballgame,” Parke said. “We’re away, against a team that likes to bang and be physical. We’ll see what we’re made of.”

Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at djzeitlin@gmail.com.