Eryk Williamson is a full United States international. As of July 11, 2021, that can never be taken from him. With his appearance against Haiti at the Concacaf Gold Cup, Williamson fulfilled a dream most professional players hold since the moments they fall in love with soccer. He has now represented his country at the senior international level.
That breakthrough is latest the Alexandria, Virginia, native has earned since his arrival in Portland three years ago. From his trade to the Timbers as he was coming out of college to his full ascent to the team’s starting lineup last summer, Williamson has established himself as one of Portland’s most important players, and while his trajectory hasn't always been on straight one, the 24-year-old continues to enjoying the payoff for his perseverance.
Here’s Williamson’s professional timeline - otherwise known as path from college to his national team.
January 23, 2018 – From D.C. to Portland: After three seasons at the University of Maryland, Williamson was ready to turn pro. Unfortunately, the team that owned his Major League Soccer Homegrown Player rights wasn’t ready for him. D.C. United and the U.S. under-20 international were unable to come to terms on a contract.
In a trade that checked every weird MLS asset box — General Allocation Money, Targeted Allocation Money, a SuperDraft pick, an international slot — the Timbers acquired Williamson’s rights, and within weeks, the team's new midfielder was with the Timbers for preseason in Tuscon, Arizona.
March 24, 2018 – Starting in USL: Williamson’s first professional experience wouldn’t come with the Timbers, though. Three months after being traded to Portland, Williamson was starting for head coach Cameron Knowles and Timbers 2 as the team opened their United Soccer Leagues season at the Colorado Springs Switchbacks. T2 would lose that day, 1-0, though Williamson played alongside the likes of Jeff Attinella and Jeremy Ebobisse.
Most of Williamson’s first season in Portland was spent at T2. In 15 games, he recorded three goals and two assists while shifting between deep, central and attacking midfield roles.
May 12, 2018 – Into the goal column: Roughly seven weeks after debuting for T2, Williamson scored his first professional goal, and it could hardly have been more dramatic. Two minutes into stoppage time in Tacoma, Washington, where T2 was playing rival Sounders 2, Williamson broke a 0-0 deadlock with a cross-range volley, burying his chance off a Victor Arboleda cross to give his team a 1-0 victory.
Two years later, Williamson would score his first MLS goal against Sounders 2’s parent team, delivering again in a Portland victory at their rivals.
June 6, 2018 – T2 to T1: It wasn’t long after his first goal that Williamson got a chance with Portland’s first team. Playing their first U.S. Open Cup game of 2018, the Timbers gave a number of T2 players a chance against the visiting San Jose Earthquakes, eventually handing Williamson his debut when he came on at halftime for another T2 standout, Jack Barmby. He’d play the final 45 minutes of Portland’s 2-0 fourth-round victory.
August 22, 2018 — Island life: For the second time since leaving Maryland, Williamson was on the move. This time, he was headed to Portugal, where he would spend the rest of 2018 on loan with Santa Clara in the Portuguese first division. Come January 2019, Williamson was back in Portland and preparing for his second Timbers season.
June 22, 2019 — Year 2 begins: Williamson began 2019 with T2 and, over the course of 19 games, recorded four goals and nine assists. Come June, though, it was time for another first team look, with head coach Giovanni Savarese eventually giving Williamson his full MLS debut with a late call against visiting Houston. Coming on for Brian Fernandez, Williamson helped see out his team’s 4-0 victory, putting himself in position follow up quickly with his first MLS start.
June 26, 2019 – Into the XI: Four days later, Williamson got that start in Montreal, playing 75 minutes in attacking midfield as the Timbers fell 2-1 at Stade Saputo. He’d make two more starts before the end of the season, starting back-to-back games at D.C. United and at home against Sporting Kansas City in September. In all, Williamson made seven MLS appearances and played 234 MLS minutes for Portland in year two.
July 13, 2020 – Williamson in full: Come the beginning of this third Portland season, Williamson was ready to compete for a starting role, even if that level didn’t reach the public eye until MLS came out of COVID-19 isolation and began its MLS Is Back tournament. In the lineup for Portland’s opening-match win against the LA Galaxy, Williamson would go on to play all seven games of the tournament, starting six in a breakout performance as the Timbers triumphed in Orlando.
Sept. 20, 2020 – Derby debut, first MLS goal: Williamson carried his strong play out of Orlando, holding down his starting spot and, four games into the league’s resumed regular season, scoring his first MLS goal. In a beautiful give-and-go with Diego Valeri, Williamson scored nine minutes into his first start at the Seattle Sounders, giving his team the lead in a game they’d go on to win, 2-1. At year’s end, Williamson had three goals and four primary assists while also solidifying his place as a key part of the Timbers’ future.
February 4, 2021 —The new commitment: Two-and-a-half months after the 2020 season ended, Portland affirmed Williamson’s place as part of that future, signing the midfielder to a new, long-term contract extension.
“Signing Eryk has been a key objective of the club’s for the past 12 months and we are delighted that Eryk’s belief in the club mirrors our belief in him,” Portland’s president of soccer, Gavin Wilkinson, said at the time. “Eryk is a unique talent and we are looking forward to seeing his continued growth and performance as a Timbers player.”
"I remember telling guys, calling family: 'Hey, Mom. This is going on," Williamson remembered about signing his new deal. "I couldn't control myself for the first two hours.
"I've had to work hard this year. I thought it was a decent year. Now, it's being rewarded."
July 1, 2021 — The Gold Cup call: After a series of close calls with the national team —including a call into a winter combined camp with the senior and U-23 teams, as well as being one of the last cuts from the U.S.’s Olympic qualifying roster — Williamson was named to his country’s 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup squad. Four days later, he reported to camp in Kansas City, Kansas, where he'd begin competing for his full international debut.
July 11, 2021 – Eryk Williamson, U.S. international: Beyond the date, here’s the trivia you need to know: 76th minute; for Shaquell Moore; against Haiti at the Gold Cup; with the U.S. going on to win, 1-0. At 24, Williamson became a full U.S. international.
There’ll be more dates on Williamson’s timeline, and if the rate of his ascent is any indication, those dates will come soon. Though reaching new milestones has never been easy, Williamson has found a way to push through. How long until he has an international start, assist, goal, or a first team honor? After the last four years, can any of these be counted out?