CHESTER, Pa. — As angry as Philadelphia Union fullback Sheanon Williams was with the referee during Friday’s match against Colorado, he was even angrier with himself when the game ended.
Yes, he believed there should have been a foul called on Wells Thompson’s hard challenge on him in the 63rd minute. And yes, he believed the referee shouldn’t have been quite as vocal with him after the no-call.
But no, Williams admitted from the locker room following Philly’s 2-1 defeat to the Rapids, he should not have spouted off as much as he did to draw first a yellow and then a red card. That quick series of events crippled the Union’s comeback hopes Friday and will also hurt them for Wednesday’s game vs. the Chicago Fire (9 pm ET, watch LIVE here) as Williams serves his one-game suspension.
“I thought he said something disrespectful to me and I lost my cool and I think that cost my team the game,” the young defender said. “I’m out for another game Wednesday against Chicago, and it’s not a good time to be missing games. We need to pick up points and what I did was not helpful toward my team.”
Union manager Peter Nowak did not condone his player’s actions, but he did not publically disapprove of them, either. Instead, most of Nowak’s postgame frustration was directed at what he perceives to be a growing referee problem.
“I saw the replay right now and it was just one of those tackles where you just scratch your head,” Nowak said. “For months now, we’ve been talking about fouls like that – dangerous fouls like that – especially after the incidents where the legs were broken. I’m getting tired of this stuff.”
While the referee’s decision-making process is out of the club’s control, how they react to certain calls is not. In that regard, the 21-year-old Williams says he learned a valuable lesson.
“I think I have to just try to walk away from that situation,” Williams said. “That’s my fault. I know better and that won’t happen again.”
A longtime veteran of the league, teammate Danny Califf understood why Williams got so heated at that particular moment and also dismissed the notion that the red card cost the Union any points.
“I’m sure he feels like he let the team down but I don’t think that’s the case,” Califf said. “He let his emotions get the better of him but those are the kind of emotions you want. If you’re a competitor, sometimes it gets taken over the line. He’s a young guy — he’s going to learn from it.”
A more pressing concern is how Philly will replace Williams against Chicago. The talented right fullback has been a fixture for the Union – starting all 20 games and playing all but 32 minutes this season – and the Union are already defensively thin after trading away left back Jordan Harvey a month ago.
Nowak noted that Michael Farfan, a natural midfielder, could join his brother Gabriel, who’s been starting at left back since the Harvey trade, on the backline. Rookie Ryan Richter, who has yet to make his official MLS debut, is another option to fill in for Williams.
Whoever it is, though, the Union will certainly miss the explosiveness Williams provides.
“A lot of the attack stems from the right side with him flying forward,” Califf added. “It will definitely be a challenge for us to replace him.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @DaveZeitlin.