The Portland Thorns’ first pick of the 2021 NWSL Draft, Yazmeen Ryan, is a trailblazer. She has been a part of many firsts for her high school and Texas Christian University. Being part of the first state championship team for Norman North High School was an unforgettable feeling for Ryan. When her future coach at TCU, Eric Bell, said she could help the Horned Frogs win their first NCAA College Cup she was immediately intrigued.
Ryan didn’t know TCU existed. She was playing at a Thanksgiving invitational when TCU coaches Bell and Ryan Higginbotham spotted her on separate occasions at the tournament. Ryan was playing with her team and as a guest with her older sister’s squad. They were unaware that Ryan was playing for two different teams. She caught the eye of both coaches even though they thought she was two different players. When the coaches figured out they had both spotted the same player, they knew that Ryan could be an important asset to the Horned Frogs.
Ryan’s high school coach knew Higginbotham and explained to Ryan that TCU was a great school. Bell spoke with Ryan and explained that she could become a Horned Frog and help TCU win their first-ever NCAA College Cup or she could join one of the traditional powers of women’s soccer and add just another College Cup to a trophy room that was already overflowing.
| Part 2— TCU Soccer (@TCUSoccer) February 26, 2021
“They didn’t stumble upon success. They are the two hardest working kids out there.”
@yazziiann & @emily_sofia14 look to only build on their impressive legacies this spring.#GoFrogs pic.twitter.com/gxx8I1pUh6
“In my freshman year of high school, we had won our high school’s very first state championship and made history there,” said Ryan. “So [winning TCU’s first NCAA College Cup] sounded like something that was not only doable, but it was more exciting. I really connected with that at the time. I don’t like being the underdog ... But I like doing the unexpected and helping build a team that essentially no one believed could get to where we are now.”
Ryan was drafted sixth overall by the Portland Thorns in the 2021 NWSL Draft, becoming the highest draft pick in the program’s history. Before that, she contributed to a variety of firsts for the Horned Frogs. She scored TCU’s first College Cup winner against BYU in her sophomore season and has continued to make history in Texas.
TCU drew with Baylor to open the 2020 NCAA season. The Horned Frogs then went on a Big 12 rampage, winning eight straight matches. Ryan became the first TCU player in history to earn all-conference honors in all four of her seasons, and captained TCU to their first-ever Big 12 title (TCU’s first-ever undefeated conference season). Unfortunately, Ryan was unable to play in the final two matches when TCU clinched the conference title because of an injury.
“It was really hard to stay on the sidelines,” said Ryan. “But the support I had around me was absolutely insane. It’s like I didn’t even have time to sit and sulk about it … [The team] continued doing their thing and they knew that even though one player that impacts the game was out that wasn’t going to stop [them].”
“[Missing the last two matches] was one of the reasons why I stayed in the spring,” said Ryan. “After getting injured and not being able to participate in those last two games and not even being able to play the NCAA Tournament. We still had goals to accomplish as a team. I felt that, especially as captain, it was up to me to make sure that we’re staying on track and essentially [that we] get to those moments. So I’m really grateful that in the spring, we were able to be given another opportunity to compete on a bigger stage, and really accomplish the goals that we set out to do.”
TCU will resume their season as Big 12 Champions in 2021. They reopen the COVID-disrupted season against Texas State on Saturday and will look to keep their undefeated record in tack.
The Horned Frogs are currently ranked fourth by the United Soccer Coaches poll. TCU are poised to make a deep run in the College Cup. They have a great mixture of experience and youth who now have championship experience. They have big-time players, being tied for the most MAC Hermann Award Watch List players for a single program with three — one of whom is Ryan.
Ryan is extremely versatile. She usually plays an attacking midfield role but has played at outside back, center back, all around the midfield, and in the front line. Ryan has made 68 appearances for the Horned Frogs. She has scored 19 goals and assisted 17. 10 of her goals have been game-winners. She is a difference-maker that has the vision, passing range and dribbling ability to slice open defenses.
There is no question that Ryan and her teammates are ready to take on Texas State and anyone else that stands in their way. Ryan and her fellow Horned Frogs are hoping to challenge for the College Cup and become the first TCU women’s soccer team to get their hands on the cup. But Ryan is also very excited to get to Portland.
“Hopefully, we make the run that we want in the NCAA tournament, maybe even end up in the championship … [I’m hoping to be in Portland] after the season ends and after I graduate in early May. Because I’m just ready to get started.”
Ryan has spoken about how a team’s culture is important and she believes TCU and Portland Thorns FC share a similar culture. Something that makes the Thorns’ culture so unique is the support for the NWSL in Portland, and Ryan can’t wait to play in front of a packed Providence Park.
“I would like to say to the Rose City fans that I am incredibly excited to enter your world and your environment and really work hard out there and make you guys proud,” said Ryan. “I can’t wait to get started.”
She is also excited about the Thorns new partnership.
“I don’t have TikTok right now so I’m not necessarily on it a lot,” said Ryan. “I do end up seeing the trends and stuff. With TCU also getting a TikTok and making different videos … it has definitely got me more into it. So I’m excited that they’ve partnered with TikTok, and I think in the future, I’ll definitely be a TikTok person.”
Ryan is looking forward to sharing a field with Rocky Rodriguez, Christine Sinclair, Crystal Dunn, Becky Sauerbrunn, and Lindsey Horan. She said that she grew up watching Horan, leading many women’s soccer journalists to make jokes about feeling very old. Ryan laughed and clarified that she meant that she watched Horan in high school and that she has modeled her game after the current Portland number ten.
Portland will have to wait to welcome Ryan to her new home and Ryan will be sharing the field with Horned Frogs rather than Thorns for a few more months. Until then the Rose City support can see for themselves why Mark Parsons traded up for the TCU attacking midfielder as Ryan and her teammates continue their quest to bring TCU their first College Cup title.
TCU resume their season against Texas State on Saturday at 5 p.m. (Pacific).