After falling in the 2016 NCAA Tournament in a major upset loss at home to Providence to end an undefeated season, Maryland soccer star players Eryk Williamson and Gordon Wild turned down offseason professional contracts to return to the program.
A year later, following a season-ending collapse that culminated in a devastating penalty kick loss to Albany Williamson has decided his college soccer career is over.
Williamson, a Third Team All-American and Big Ten Midfielder of the Year, reportedly signed an agent to end his NCAA playing eligibility, first reported by the Washington Post’s Steve Goff.
The junior playmaker tied for the team lead in points with graduating senior midfielder Jake Rozhansky with 17 points. His six goals led the team and five assists came second only to Rozhansky.
The Alexandria, Virginia native signed with sports agent Mike Gartlan, the President of COR Sports Management Group. As a D.C. United youth academy product, Williamson has the option of signing a homegrown contract with the MLS side, but there is speculation that Williamson could be heading for a challenge in Europe.
D.C. United reportedly plans to make an offer for Williamson’s professional services, but his showing at last summer’s U-20 World Cup could have other clubs overseas interested. Williamson showed flashes of individual brilliance there, including this goal of the tournament nominee.
Williamson’s highlight of the year came in October with his second half hattrick against Wisconsin in poor weather conditions in a thrilling 5-4 win. That game proved to be Maryland’s last victory of the season.
His attacking production dried up along with the rest of Maryland’s midfield and forwards along the way of the losing five straight games and ultimately bowing out of the first round of the NCAA Tournament, the second consecutive year losing at home in their first playoff game in heartbreaking fashion.
While Williamson’s exit was expected by many, it is a big loss for a Maryland soccer program that struggled to find attacking answers at the end of the season. Williamson’s creativity when passing to open players and dribbling past defenders was key to the Terps’ success all season long.
The decision to end his Maryland career in favor of beginning a professional one shows the difference in how the last two seasons went. An undefeated season that ended in the then-No. 1 Terps losing to an unranked Providence by giving up four straight goals in the last half hour still gave rise to Williamson in the U.S. Men’s National Team U-20 squad, and professional clubs took notice.
However, with the bitter taste in his mouth after losing to Providence in 2016, Williamson decided to return for 2017.
“We have a good deal of confidence knowing that everyone wants to come back and chase what we lost last year,” Williamson said in the beginning of the season. “Personally, [the Providence loss] hurt – us going out like that. Everyone thought we were going to have a longer run and the fact that it ended shortly made us all hungrier to come back.”
However, after a lack of attacking productivity towards the end of the season for the Terps, Williamson decided not to chase college championships, but a professional soccer career instead.
Williamson will join a plethora of Maryland alumni in the professional ranks, including 2015 graduate Tsubasa Endoh who just won the 2017 MLS Cup with Toronto FC.
With Williamson gone, the question poses: who else will leave? After preseason MAC Hermann candidate Gordon Wild’s disappointing five goal season, it will be interesting to see if he rejoins the large junior class into their senior seasons. Excluding Williamson, eight juniors lead the Maryland team in the 2018 season.
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