Portland Timbers midfielder Eryk Williamson targeting USMNT return

Chris Smith
Williamson has been sidelined since August with an ACL tear.
Williamson has been sidelined since August with an ACL tear. / Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Timbers midfielder Eryk Williamson is targeting a return to the United States Men's National Team this summer.

The 24-year-old is already capped four times for the USMNT as part of their Concacaf Gold Cup-winning team, including playing 87 minutes in the 1-0 win over Mexico in the final.

But Williamson's progress was halted by an ACL tear sustained in a 2-0 win over the Seattle Sounders in August and he's been out of action ever since.

The midfielder is now nearing a return to full fitness and having already been robbed of minutes during this current World Cup qualifying cycle, is looking to make a swift return to Gregg Berhalter's plans.

“The goal of mine is to just be ready for the first start of the season, make it before this international break we have in the summer,” Williamson told Timbers broadcaster Jake Zivin while at a pre-season training camp in Arizona.

“Hopefully to get a good run of games where I can make a shout for being in Gregg [Berhalter]'s group for that summer camp.

“I think trying to get into that window, trying to get back into the national team. I know it's a tough goal to reach and if I miss short, it's one where at least I know I've been pushing myself.”

Williamson revealed that Berhalter had suggested he likely wouldn't have made the roster for the USMNT's first World Cup qualifying fixtures in September. However, he was in the head coach's mind, with the carrot of future possible call-ups dangled in front of him, giving the midfielder plenty to play for.

That only added to the frustration of the timing of the injury for Williamson.

“Injuries happen in sports, but the timing of this one really cut deep,” Williamson said. “It was one I had just earned a lot of trust with Gregg and the national team, making my claim with the national team I can be there and I can play.

“A month later, you see qualifying and maybe it's a chance for me to get into that group. I talked to Gregg I think a week before the injury happened, and it's like 'You may not come this window but injuries happen, hiccups happen.' I was excited to get back in the rhythm of playing and getting there.”

Perhaps a bigger emotional test for Williamson was watching on as his Portland Timbers teammates went all the way to the MLS Cup Playoffs final last year, even hosting the showpiece event before eventually losing on penalties to NYCFC.

While he's called for patience as he regains match sharpness and returns to his best form, Williamson is hoping he can play a part for the Timbers from the jump this year.

“It's going to take time,” Williamson said. “I get impatient at times, but my goal is to maybe be available for that first game. Hopefully two or three games after that, it's maybe a start, 45 minutes or something. It's just what I'm really pushing for. I don't want to push it to the point where it can harm myself, but at the same time it's gives and takes”

The Timbers open their 2022 campaign at home to the New England Revolution on February 26 before traveling to LAFC on March 6.