During the rush of the past seven days, FC Kansas City forward Erika Tymrak has transformed from a wide-eyed rookie to a seasoned veteran. And that’s not just because she netted goals in each of her first two career starts last week.
No, Tymrak knows she still has plenty to learn in the National Women’s Soccer League. It’s just that she no longer has time to ease into the process.
FC Kansas City will be without six of its 11 starters when it reaches Chicago on Thursday night for the final game in a three-game road trip. Four players have joined the United States women’s national team for a pair of friendly matches against South Korea, while two more have joined Canada for its friendly in Germany on Wednesday.
“We knew from the get-go there would be games we would be short-handed,” FC Kansas City coach Vlatko Andonovski said. “We think we have good depth, and this is a chance for those players to prove themselves.”
Midfielders Lauren Cheney, Kristie Mewis and Desiree Scott, along with goalie Nicole Barnhart and defenders Becky Sauerbrunn and Lauren Sesselmann will miss the next two matches to fulfill their national-team obligations.
That turns quality substitutes like Tymrak into important starters for Thursday’s game in Chicago and for a home game Sunday against Chicago, set for 3:10 p.m. at Shawnee Mission North District Stadium.
By contrast, none of Chicago’s regulars have been added to the U.S. roster. Goalie Eric McLeod and defender Carmelina Moscato have joined Canada.
“I think it gives us the opportunity to step up and show what we’ve been working on,” Tymrak said of the reserves. “We practice as hard as anybody else. When we get the opportunity, we have to take advantage of it. These games against Chicago are going to be tough without the national team players, but it’s a chance for people to step up.”
Tymrak, 21, has made good on her opportunity to move from a late-game substitute into the starting lineup. In her first professional start last Thursday in Portland in place of Sesselmann, who was serving a red-card suspension, Tymrak scored a second-half goal to pull FC Kansas City within one. The Blues ultimately fell 4-3.
On Sunday, FC Kansas City made better use of Tymrak’s score. It served as the game-winner in a 1-0 victory in Seattle. The tally was originally marked down as an own goal by Seattle keeper Hope Solo, but the league credited Tymrak with the score Monday.
Tymrak started Sunday in place of injured striker Renae Cuellar, who is questionable again Thursday with a sprained left ankle and MCL.
“I was nervous. I knew I was the youngest player on the field,” Tymrak said. “The players on the field did a good job of calming me down and telling me to play my game. As the game went on, it got easier and slowed down for me.”
A week after Tymrak made her starting debut, her teammates are trying to bottle up some of those first-week riches.
“I’ve talked to a few of them and told them that they’re going to mess up a few passes, but they just have to take a deep breath and relax because it gets more comfortable,” Tymrak said. “We play a style where once you calm down, it just clicks and you start passing and moving it.”