Erika Tymrak approached the National Women’s Soccer League draft with something of a backup plan, though she hoped she wouldn’t need to use it. Forty college players were slated to be picked on draft day, but unsure if she would be one of them, Tymrak engaged in contract discussions with teams overseas. Just in case.
Somewhere, somehow, she planned to continue a soccer career that blossomed at the University of Florida.
“I have a love for the game,” Tymrak says. “I just want to play soccer somewhere.”
The initial doubts, of course, seem baseless, perhaps even absurd, when she thinks back on them four months later.
FC Kansas City selected Tymrak with its second-round pick, No. 11 overall. And the Blues, who had Tymrak slotted much higher on their list, felt fortunate she was still an option that late.
“We were surprised she was still available,” FC Kansas City coach Vlatko Andonovski said. “I watched several games of Florida. Every time she got the ball, things happened for her team. I thought we were getting great value.”
He thought right. While the season began with signs Tymrak may be overmatched in her first season as a professional, she has since evolved into one of the league’s top scoring midfielders with six goals. And she’s a key cog in the FC Kansas City nine-match unbeaten streak.
On Friday, Tymrak was chosen NWSL player of the month for July. The honor, she insists, reached far higher than any of her preseason goals.
And how couldn’t it? Tymrak opened the season on the bench, relegated to a late-game substitution for the first six games.
“It’s a completely different level of soccer, so I didn’t expect myself to jump right in,” Tymrak said. “I knew it was going to be a work in progress. I was just excited to get the experience of playing with these girls.”
Tymrak was awarded her first career start in Portland on June 6 — she was plugged into the starting lineup with defender Lauren Sesselmann serving a mandatory one-game suspension for a red card.
Tymrak scored in her first career start. And then again in her second.
Thirteen consecutive starts later, Tymrak has scored six goals and added two assists.
Most important, the team has lost only two matches in those 13 starts. FC Kansas City will take its nine-match unbeaten streak into Sunday’s 7:30 game with Portland FC, the winner of which will assume first place in the NWSL standings.
The timing of Tymrak’s awakening and the Blues’ charge up the standings is certainly no coincidence.
“Erika is one of the most creative players on our team,” Andonovski said. “With her being in the lineup and playing the way she’s playing, it’s hard to imagine our team without her.”
Tymrak, who turns 22 on Wednesday, is most often praised for her impressive footwork — teammate Lauren Holiday says it’s maybe the best on the team — which is a quality Tymrak says she got from dancing and figure skating as a kid.
She adds a necessary complement in the midfield to Lauren Holiday, who draws a lot of attention from opponents as one of the leading candidates for the league’s most valuable player.
“Lauren helps everyone around her — she’s a true leader on the field,” Andonovski said. “They communicate together. Their confidence level is going through the roof.”
Holiday and Tymrak have combined for 16 goals, the most of any NWSL duo.
“Lauren is the type of player (who) plays for other people, and you don’t really see many of those at the high level,” Tymrak said. “She’s one of the best midfielders in the world, and she’s helped me so much. The fact I get to play next to her every day is a blessing.”
It’s certainly a tad better than her backup plan.