While the Crew struggled during the early part of the season in part to the various injuries of defenders Carlos Mendes, Julius James, Danny O'Rourke, and Chad Marshall, one positive to come from all of those ailments was the emergence of Josh Williams in the Columbus back line.
After waiting over a year and a half to make his MLS debut, the third-year defender saw his first action in the Crew's home opener on March 24 against Montreal to relieve Sebastian Miranda at right back. Williams made one more appearance as a substitute before making his first start at center back on April 21 against Houston. The 24 year old has started every match since.
"From (the match against Montreal on March 24), it's just been a whirlwind," Williams said. "I just show up everyday and pretend I'm still (working my way into the lineup). I don't think too far ahead. I still don't think I've 'made it.' I just try to be the hardest working guy on the team and hope the success keeps coming."
With a number of defenders figting for playing time, Williams shows up to the Crew's training facility every day working hard to maintain his role in Robert Warzycha's lineup and improve upon the success he's seen so far in 2012.
"I try to be the hardest worker on the team. I'm always trying to improve on something, asking the coaches things," Williams elaborated. "Every day I want to pick something up or learn something new from either the coaches or some of the older guys. There's a lot of pressure, but there has to be. You've got to keep performing and keep raising the level. You've got guys behind you that want to play. That's good, because having competition is always good."
"He's motivated to go every single day," Warzycha complimented the young defender. "It's easy to get there, but it's much more difficult to stay on the top."
The Cleveland State Product's ability to play multiple positions has been an asset to Warzycha and the Crew.
"He can play in the middle and he can play on the right side," Warzycha said. "I think it's good to have a player like that."
Due to injuries to Bernardo Anor and Nemaja Vukovic, Williams has been forced to shift over and play left back. Naturally right footed, Williams has spends time daily after training working to improve his skill with his left foot. The Crew has won both matches in which the young defender has played at the position.
"I try to embrace every position, try to get the most out of it and keep calm and stay positive and always be confident in myself no matter where I'm playing," Williams explained. "I'm right-footed, I try to work on my left foot as much as I can after practice, staying after a little bit to work on my left foot. I'm not entirely comfortably there, but every game, the more I play, the more comfortable I get."
Williams hopes his experiences of presevering to earn a spot in the Crew lineup and maintaining it will rub off on other young players.
"I wake up every day and I can't help but smile. I'm doing what I love, I've accomplished my dream. I try to bring that to the locker room, try to bring that to some of the younger guys who haven't gotten their shot yet or are still waiting on their chance," Williams said. "I always try to tell them to keep their heads up and keep working hard because as soon as you get that opportunity, you've got to take advantage of it."
Williams is clearly seizing his opportunity, and that doesn't look to change any time soon.