Club: Reading (Championship)
Fresh off what he described as one of the biggest disappointments of his professional career, Danny Williams is primed for a breakout season. Now in the prime of his career, the 27-year-old defensive midfielder had his best season as a pro in 2015-16 for Championship side Reading. While that success didn’t warrant a place on Jurgen Klinsmann’s Copa America Centenario roster, Williams enters the new campaign ready to take his development one step further and truly blossom, whether with Reading or a bigger club in a higher division.
For much of his career, Williams has been something of an in-betweener. He’s never really shined in a top-flight league and has failed to stick with the United States Men’s National Team despite decent performances. Still, he’s impressed enough over the past year with Reading to garner Premier League interest.
He would go on to make five more appearances that season and seven more the following year before transferring to Hoffenheim on deadline day in 2011. While there, he became a regular in the Bundesliga rotation, playing in 45 games and scoring one goal over a two-season stay. Shortly after arriving, he made his first appearance with the USMNT, becoming the first American to debut under Klinsmann in a 1-0 win over Honduras in October 2011.
Williams would develop into a regular with the national side during his stint with Hannover, but things changed when he moved to England to join Championship outfit Reading in 2013. Despite scoring three goals in 30 games in his first season, Williams played just once for the USMNT in each 2013 and 2014 after making seven appearances for the side the year before.
However, he got another chance after an up-and-down 2014-15 injury-hit campaign in which he scored just once in 25 appearances, and this time Williams made the most of it. His first USMNT goal was a deflected strike from the edge of the box that tied the score in the 88th minute of the 4-3 comeback win over the Netherlands in June 2015. Although he didn’t make that summer’s Gold Cup squad, Williams did return to the side after the summer and scored a tremendous long-range strike against Brazil, although it was little more than consolation in a 4-1 loss.
Over the next few months, Williams used that momentum well, turning into a key cog in Reading’s
Given the way his season ended, it’s not too shocking that he was left off Klinsmann’s roster for the Copa America, although the midfielder could have certainly had a role to play in the tournament. His strong performances earlier in the season earned Williams a bit of Premier League attention, mainly from Swansea, but the summer snub clearly hurt Williams. In a recent interview with NBC Sports, he detailed both his future — stating he wants to play in the Premier League — and the feeling of being left off the USMNT roster for the competition.
Whether Williams does move to the Premier League is still unclear; new Reading manager Jaap Stam is expecting the midfielder to play big minutes in a key role this season. But, entering the final year of his contract, the time seems right for Williams to make the step up. He wants to challenge himself, there’s incentive for Reading to sell, and he’s proven himself as a capable asset to a side. No matter what, Williams is in his prime, and he sounds like a man hungry for the chance to impress in the Premier League.