James Sands, Eryk Williamson earn Gold Cup opportunities with USMNT

James Sands, Eryk Williamson earn Gold Cup opportunities with USMNT

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James Sands, Eryk Williamson earn Gold Cup opportunities with USMNT

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James Sands and Eryk Williamson are two of 19 MLS-based players to earn a spot on the U.S. Men’s National Team Gold Cup roster for this summer’s tournament, an opportunity earned by both players after fighting their way back from respective issues to start 2021.

Sands and Williamson were chosen by Gregg Berhalter on his 23-player roster for the upcoming Gold Cup, and both will be eager to earn their first caps for the National Team in the coming weeks. Both players have delivered strong starts to their respective MLS seasons, fighting back from injuries at the start of the year to play current key roles for their clubs.

The 20-year-old Sands has played in 10 matches for NYCFC this season, impressing at the centerback position and helping the Eastern Conference club to a current fourth-place spot in the standings. Sands is one of several players who was not chosen for the U.S. Under-23 Men’s National Team during the Olympic Qualifying Tournament earlier this year, but now has a great opportunity to show Berhalter what he brings to the table.

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“James Sands if you remember at the end of last season was injured and was up against time to get back to fitness,” Berhalter said. “He’s a guy we wanted to include in the December and January camp for the senior team, but he wasn’t able to be there due to his fitness. We think this is a good chance for him to work with the group.”

Williamson is another player seeking his senior debut with the National Team and was not chosen for Under-23 duty in Mexico earlier this year. The 24-year-old has scored one goal and registered two assists for the Portland Timbers this season, seeing time at both the No. 6 and No. 8 positions in Giovanni Savarese’s squad.

After bouncing back from a slight injury to start the year, Williamson has continued to blossom as an all-around midfielder and could get the chance to play a key role in the USMNT squad.

“Eryk Williamson is another one who came into the January camp and he did quite poor,” Berhalter said. “It was based on his fitness since he was dealing with a high ankle sprain so he wasn’t able to perform up to his expectations. Since then, he’s improved his form and he’s doing well with Portland so he is another option we are excited to work with in our midfield group.”

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Both players enter their first USMNT camps on good form, and they will each have a chance to earn playing time and a more prominent role in Berhalter’s setup.

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