The NWSL announced that FC Kansas City midfielder Erika Tymrak was voted the National Women's Soccer League Rookie of the Year for the 2013 season.
Runner-up's are goalkeeper Adrianna Franch from Western New York in second and Boston forward Syndey Leroux in third.
"Extremely excited, surprised and humbled to be recognized for an award like this," Tymrak admitted Tuesday. "This whole season has been a growing experience."
Tymrak fact #1 - Erika just turned 22 earlier this month and is the second youngest player on the team (she was the youngest until the Blues picked up Tiffany Cameron off of waivers). Erika seemed quite proud of being the youngest on the team and was a little disappointed to find out that was no longer the case.
Despite her young age, Erika quickly earned a spot in the starting lineup. After the first 6 games on the bench, Tymrak notched 16 straight starts with six goals and four assists in 21 total appearances. She garnered the attention of the league with the July Player of the Month and Week 15 Player of the Week and probably should have won a couple more but lost out to more famous names.
While Tymrak was very talented at the University of Florida, fans in Kansas City could see her constantly getting better and more confident as the NWSL season progressed. FC Kansas City coach Vlatko Andonovski agreed, "We can see it from game to game she is playing better. The style that she is playing, it is what fans want to see in this game, little flicks, beating players, two or three players on the run, taking shots. It's good to have players like her in the league."
"I feel like a different player than when I came in but I honestly don't think I would have grown as much with any other team than the one I am on right now," explained Erika. "Every single player and all of our coaches have helped me grow as an attacker, as a defender, as a player, even as a person. Being on the Kansas City team was the best case scenario for me as a player and I am definitely thankful for that."
Tymrak fact #2 - Tymrak was drafted in the second round of the NWSL college draft, every team passed on her at least once and some twice. Think a few teams regret not taking her?
Erika wasn't concerned as the names were called in the first and into the second round of the draft. She always had the option to go overseas and play but she wanted to play in the NWSL. "I wasn't really worried or anything, I just needed a place to play soccer and when I got picked in the second round I was happy and grateful."
"The fact that I was chosen is beyond humbling," Erika continued. "I do not even have words for it."
Tymrak fact #3 - Erika was a figure skater, gymnast and dancer as a kid in addition to playing soccer.
Watch FC Kansas City practice or the team warming up before a game and eventually you will see Erika do a leap, a pirouette over the ball or some other move that would be at home in a dance studio or a figure skating competition. When you see her spin through traffic you can never tell if her move is inspired by soccer legend Diego Maradona or figure skater Ulrich Salchow. As defenders trip her or just try to knock her off the ball she quickly regains balance and continues on.
"The sports I did early in life, gymnastics, figure skating and dance all required a stupid amount of balance and I am kind of used to not being super strong," admitted Tymrak. "If I do get pushed off the ball or fouled I have an instinct to get back on to my feet. On the ice or gymnastics if you fall your first instinct is to pop right back up. If you mess up the move or the routine you are taught to pop right back up no matter what. I think from having that early on it stayed with me; it's an instinct to try to stay on my feet."
Figure skating, gymnastics, dance and soccer were not Erika's only sports that required balance growing up. Ice hockey in its natural habitat was another building block. "The lakes would always freeze over so we would go out there with our friends and my parents liked to play also so we would always be out there playing, not much else to do in Michigan in the winter time but goof around on the ice," Erika explained.
(Quirky) Tymrak fact #4
When describing Erika a lot of words come to mind. Talented, skillful, dedicated, hardworking, graceful and many more apply. One adjective that should not be forgotten is quirky.
Erika is clearly very good with the ball at her feet and has incredible ball control but one of the things you rarely see her do is head the ball. Her logic for why is probably one of the oddest answers I have ever received in an interview.
Erika's reasoning, "I don't head the ball a lot and I have a theory behind that. In soccer you should not head the ball a lot because the ball is made from leather and leather comes from cows, cows eat grass and grass is on the ground and that is where the ball should be, on the ground at your feet."
How we voted
The NWSL awards are voted on by a selection of journalists that cover the league on a consistent basis, club officials and NWSL players.
The votes are weighted:
- Owners/gms/coaches - 25%
- Media - 25%
- Players - 50%
- Erika Tymrak - for obvious reasons
- Christine Nairn - played well and was a bright spot on a team that underperformed
- Adriana Franch - rookie facing great players put up some great numbers
While Sydney Leroux is a great player and she took third in the voting, I had a hard time voting for someone with 30 national team caps as a rookie.