Fresh from the 2018 MLS SuperDraft and just as the 2018 preseason kicked off, the Portland Timbers acquired another young talent Tuesday in midfielder Eryk Williamson.
Williamson, a Homegrown Player from the D.C. United system, features for the U.S. U-20s as part of their title run at the 2017 CONCACAF U-20 Championship as well as with the team’s quarterfinal performance at the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup. He was also a three-year starter at the collegiate powerhouse program of the University of Maryland before coming out early to begin his professional career.
For Maryland head coach Sasho Cirovski, a legend in the college circles whose program has produced current pros such as Omar Gonzalez, Rodney Wallace, AJ DeLaGarza, Maurice Edu, Zach Steffan, and Graham Zusi among many others, Cirovski feels that Williamson has all the tools to succeed at the next level.
“[Williamson] is a player with a high ceiling,” he said. “I think he’s probably the most skillful player in all of college soccer last year and, at times, was unstoppable.”
With the Terrapins, Williamson made 58 career appearances, recording 14 goals and 13 assists. For the 2017 college season, Williamson started in 18 games, scoring a team-high six goals and also adding five assists. Williamson was named 2017 Big Ten Midfielder of the Year and was also named to the United Soccer Coaches All-America third team, All-Midwest Region second team and the All-Big Ten first team.
Cirovski recruited Williamson on the advice of former Timbers assistant coach Amos Magee, current Minnesota United FC Director of Player Personnel, and who was, at the time, working with the D.C. United Academy. After spending a year with United’s U-18 Academy team, Williamson committed to Cirovski and Maryland and got to work.
“When you see Eryk, you immediately see his deft touch and his ability to see things very few players see out there,” Cirovski said of Williamson’s abilities. “He’s a thinker, he’s got a great mind for the game.”
Williamson’s skillset put him on the radar of U.S. Soccer at a young age and he was capped at the U-18 and U-20 levels, which, in turn, also meant he was constantly on the bubble of leaving the college ranks early. Earlier this winter, the likes of German Bundesliga side Schalke 04 were angling for the player.
The key, and perhaps one of the reasons professional teams were so interested in the young player is, according to Cirovski, Williamson’s potential and ability to play in a number of different positions across the midfield.
“Eryk is a player that can play in the wide midfield wing positions, he can play as an underneath forward, as a false nine or a 10, he can also play as an eight and eventually will be able to play as a six,” he said. “He’s a versatile player and he’s capable of producing and scoring.”
Cirovski always knew he had a player who could leave after each season—"Eryk was ready to make the jump after last season,” he said, but it was the midfielder’s strong bonds with his Terrapin teammates that kept him coming back.
That said, Cirovski knows that the Alexandria, Va., native is ready to move on to the next step and MLS. For Cirovski, Portland is a natural place for the midfielder to end up—in no small part due to the Terrapins’ shared culture of extremely rabid soccer supporters that Williamson should find some kinship in with the equally rabid, albeit much larger, Timbers Army.
“We’re grateful that [Eryk] spent three years at Maryland,” said Cirovski.
“I’m glad that he’s going to come out of his comfort zone, out of the metropolitan D.C.-Maryland area [to Portland] because I think that’s sort of the next challenge that he’ll need to spread his wings in a new environment…He certainly has the capability to do that.”