USMNT midfielder Eryk Williamson could make Portland Timbers return vs. Orlando City

Eryk Williamson portland

Portland Timbers midfielder Eryk Williamson was in the form of his life when his 2021 MLS season was cut short by a torn ACL suffered in a match against Seattle Sounders FC last August.

The 24-year-old had emerged as a breakout star and entered the US men's national team fold, picking up his first four senior caps and generating buzz ahead of World Cup qualifying.

Heading into the next test of Portland's 2022 campaign, Williamson is primed for an ahead-of-schedule return come Sunday's home matchup with Orlando City SC (4 pm ET | ESPN, ESPN Deportes), Timbers head coach Gio Savarese told reporters on Friday.

"Eryk had a good match with [MLS NEXT Pro side] T2," Savarese said. "Of course it's still a process for him to continue to get better. But what we could see is the possibility of Eryk being a part of this game and when I say that, it's being on the bench."

The University of Maryland product does a little bit of everything for Portland, with Savarese citing his creative passing ability, on-ball skills and defensive work rate as strengths. In the meantime, Portland's midfield has been led by David Ayala, Diego Chara and Cristhian Paredes.

"We know that Eryk is a very important component of this team," Savarese said. "I think we have seen his growth in the club. He was playing a lot of minutes in 2020, 2021 until he got injured. And now, he has recovered a lot faster than we expected and now he's looking more comfortable in training. We always have to be careful when someone gets that type of injury, how they're going to come back, what will be the process of them being able to step on the field.

"But the fact that he's been training full, the fact that he played with T2 a few minutes makes him feel more secure in stepping on the field and being able to provide what we know he can, which is that quality on the field, the type of player that can dribble through lines, that can score goals, that can find positions higher up the field. His commitment and his change in mentality now also it's an important component when we have to defend, to win balls, to counter-press. So very glad that he's on a better spot to being close to playing and be able to participate more."

It also arrives at a perfect time for the Timbers, coming off a tough Week 4 result where they fell 4-1 to FC Dallas at Toyota Stadium.

That match was defined by a chaotic first half that saw Portland concede a hat trick to FC Dallas forward Jesus Ferreira in the space of 10 minutes. While his team looked better in the second half, Savarese expects a lift when Portland face Orlando for the first time since their MLS is Back Tournament Final victory in 2020.

"We had a good week of training," he said. "We did a lot of reflection on what we should have done better in the first half, looking more to the good things we did in the second half and making sure that we're solid as we had been in the previous three matches at the beginning of the season. So, the group is good, the guys have been training very well and day by day we grew in confidence and we felt better about ourselves.

"Now we have a big game at home against Orlando, a good team. We prepared well, one more day in order to finalize all the details and then ready to be able to step on Sunday to play this match at home."