VANCOUVER â€” Sheanon Williams wants to bring some of his hometown’s championship swagger to the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Acquired from the Houston Dynamo in December, the 26-year-old Boston native was still glowing this week after New England’s improbable comeback victory in the Super Bowl. The Patriots overcame a 25-point deficit to beat the Atlanta Falcons 34-28 in overtime Sunday night.
“It was an amazing game, one of the best I’ve ever seen,” said Williams. “Definitely cool to see my city get another one.”
The Whitecaps defender has actually witnessed his city win 10 combined titles in his lifetime, including five Super Bowls.
“I always say if I never see another championship I’d be OK with it,” he said. “The Patriots’ ones have been right up there, the Celtics’ one in 2008 was one of my favourites.”
Williams’ ties to some of the trophies are a little closer than the average fan. He went to high school with Bill Belichick’s two sons in the Boston area and would see the Patriots head coach at their football games.
“Hoodie and all, watching by himself,” Williams said with a smile. “The guy’s just a machine.
“He’s already getting ready for next year. Hopefully we can do a little bit of that here.”
The Whitecaps would probably settle for a return to the playoffs following a disappointing 2016 campaign riddled with inconsistency, a lack of discipline and horrendous defending.
Vancouver traded right back Steven Beitashour to Toronto FC before last season because of salary restrictions. Fraser Aird and Jordan Smith were brought in on loan deals as possible replacements.
While the defensive struggles couldn’t be pinned solely on the young duo, neither was able to do the job on the right side of defence and were cut loose this winter.
Cue the trade for Williams. It’s hoped he will help solidify a backline that allowed 52 goals, second-worst in Major League Soccer’s Western Conference after surrendering just 36 the previous year.
“I want to try and find a consistent player in that position,” said Whitecaps head coach Carl Robinson, who sent general allocation money to Houston in the deal. “Sheanon will bring that experience. He plays 25-plus games a season. Hopefully he can do that again.
“He’s a fighter. He’s one that you need in your corner. He never lets you down.”
Williams said while not the designated player or flashy striker Whitecaps fans have been pining for, he’s confident he can make a difference.
“They gave up a lot of goals,” said Williams. “This defence can be great.
“I know it can. It’s just putting the pieces together.”
Williams â€” whose first name is pronounced “Shane-en” â€” started 172-of-179 appearances with Houston and the Philadelphia Union since joining MLS in 2010. He has registered seven goals and 22 assists along the way.
“He’s a seasoned guy,” said Vancouver goalkeeper David Ousted. “On top of that he’s a really good defender.
“He can show some of the young guys what this league is about. I think he’s going to be very solid.”
Williams said the trade didn’t come as a shock after his 1 1/2 seasons in Houston. But he didn’t envision Vancouver as a potential destination.
“I would have never pictured that I would have been here,” he said. “I’m an East Coast guy. Getting out to Vancouver was not high on my priority list.
“There’s nothing but good things coming from around the league about this club and what it has coming up in the future.”
Barring injuries, Williams should join left back Jordan Harvey, along with central defenders Kendall Waston and Tim Parker, as Vancouver’s first-choice backline this season.
“We can have a great run this year,” said Williams. “That will catapult us into bigger and better things.”
The Whitecaps recently returned from an 11-day pre-season trip to Wales before heading to Portland for more training and exhibition games ahead of their CONCACAF Champions League quarter-final with the New York Red Bulls, which begins Feb. 22. The second leg goes March 2 before Vancouver’s MLS season kicks off three days later.
“I’m going to work as hard as I can to make this team successful,” said Williams. “I’ve been around for a while. I’m excited to get things started.”
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Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press