By JOEY SAMUEL
Philadelphia Union right back Sheanon Williams is with the United States U-23 team as it prepares to open CONCACAF Olympic qualifying. While the call-up is an honor for Williams, Union coach Peter Nowak his staff aren't exactly thrilled with how the situation played out.
During a conference call Wednesday with reporters, Nowak expressed how the Williams call-up by U-23 coach Caleb Porter actually came as quite the surprise, at a time when the Union defense has several issues that need sorting out.
Captain and centerback Danny Califf was already held out of last Sunday's 2-1 home loss to the Colorado Rapids, although the circumstances surrounding his benching were controversial. Left back Porfirio Lopez was with the Costa Rican national team Wednesday, taking part in a friendly against Jamaica, prior to returning to the team on Thursday. Now the Union must deal with the loss of their starting right back.
"I think everybody got caught by surprise because he wasn’t in the last two camps with the national team,” Nowak said. “I was communicated by the coach at the end of the January camp in Arizona and Costa Rica that they have better options at right back."
With WIlliams gone for as many as two weeks, it seems likely that veteran Chris Albright will start at right back, although he was subbed out of Sunday's game when he was beaten badly by Colorado's Tony Cascio and is dealing with a groin strain. Another option is rookie Raymon Gaddis, who has yet to appear for the Union after being taken in the second round of this year's SuperDraft out of West Virginia University.
Here are some other Union notes as they prepare for Saturday's game against Chicago:
NOWAK, CALIFF MAKE UP AFTER GAMEDAY CONFUSION
When Califf was left out of the starting lineup for Sunday's game against Colorado, it came as a surprise to many. After all, Califf had only ever missed a game when injured or suspended during the team's two previous years of existence.
After the game, Nowak said that Califf was rested due to a knee injury he had sustained during the offseason, which wasn't completely healed. But Califf told reporters that he was completely fine, and hadn't even talked to Nowak about being benched.
On Wednesday, Nowak said that the two had talked about it, and that there was nothing to worry about going forward.
“I think it was a very helpful and a very healthy conversation," Nowak said. "The communication was very important from both sides. You have 28 guys in the locker room, and in some capacity, you’ve got to make a decision on who is playing on the weekend. It’s difficult for any of us to explain to the other 17 guys, having chats about why this happened or why you’re not playing or why you’re playing."
With Williams out for Saturday's away contest against the Chicago Fire, Califf is hopeful of returning to the lineup at center back alongside Carlos Valdes.
ADU, OKUGO REMAIN WITH U-23s
Having been called up to the U-23 national team to participate in Olympic qualifying, midfielders Freddy Adu and Amobi Okugo will once again be without the Union when they take on Chicago on Saturday. Adu has been named captain of the U-23 team and is quite experienced on the Olympic level. He participated in the 2008 Olympics, where his coach was current Union manager Peter Nowak.
GABRIEL FARFAN INJURED
One of the club's versatile options, Gabriel Farfan, is currently nursing a right quad strain. While Farfan is naturally a wide midfielder, he mostly played at left back for the Union throughout 2011, and if healthy could have given Nowak more options in defense heading into the game against the Fire.