Underdog superstar: Yazmeen Ryan

-Yazmeen Ryan joined Gotham FC from the Portland Thorns before the 2023 season

-The player has become an underdog superstar

Kansas City Current v NJ/NY Gotham FC
Kansas City Current v NJ/NY Gotham FC / Ira L. Black - Corbis/GettyImages

Yazmeen Ryan has been one of the more underrated players in the NWSL and NJ/NY Gotham FC. Joining from Portland Thorns FC in the offseason, she changed the midfield for the team that led them to their first-ever NWSL title. The young 24-year-old is only getting started after establishing herself as one of the best players in the league. 

Growing up in Norman, Oklahoma, the Gotham player played for the Oklahoma Celtic based in her hometown. Part of the ECNL regional league, they are one of the top elite youth clubs in the nation, which paved the way for Ryan to become a professional.  

In addition, Ryan led her high school team to their first-ever state championship. As such, she was an immediate prospect for a professional career. In 2017, she attended Texas Christian University, where she played for the Horned Frogs from 2017-2020. At the same time, she always played in the WPSL with Oklahoma City FC  

With the Horned Frogs, she played all four of her eligible seasons, recording 71 starts in 75 appearances while logging in 23 goals and 23 assists. Ryan also earned a bucket load of awards during her final year in 2020, including a 2021 MAC Hermann semifinalist, first-team All-American, first-team All-Big 12, and Top Drawer Soccer first-team Best XI.  

Yazmeen Ryan's journey to Gotham FC

Following the conclusion of her senior year, the Gotham FC midfielder elected to turn professional and enrolled in the NWSL draft. She was drafted sixth overall in 2021 by Portland. She was an efficient depth option for the Thorns, making two starts in 11 appearances during her first season. She logged two blocks and two interceptions while maintaining a 75 percent successful tackle rate.   

Ryan's 2022 season proved to be her breakout year. She started 17 times out of 25 NWSL and Challenge Cup appearances, logging in three blocks, 16 interceptions, and five assists. Her consistency began to earn her more starts towards the end of the season, leading up to the NWSL Championship, where she was the starting right-winger. In just her second season in the league, she became a NWSL Champion, building an even bigger name for herself in the league. 

For Gotham FC, they had just completed their worst season since rebranding, finishing in last place. They were in dire need of a revamp, especially in their attack. They decided to sign Ryan on a three-year deal to be that person to help their troubles after she was traded over from Portland.  

Manager Juan Carlos Amorós saw something in her that seemed like a perfect fit for the team. He said the following when the midfielder signed the new contract:

"She is very intelligent on the pitch. She can beat players 1v1 and she continually makes effective decisions. Yazmeen is a great player now, but we believe she has the potential to be one of the best players in the league and in the world in the coming years. That’s why I’m so delighted the club and Yazmeen worked together on a contract that keeps her part of Gotham FC long-term."

Juan Carlos Amorós

This was indeed a game changer for Gotham, with their performance improving by 200 percent in 2023. For Ryan, she started 24 matches in 30 appearances for the Bats in all competitions, totaling three goals and one assist.  

She also maintained a 77 percent successful pass rate in the regular season, which was vital to revamping the midfield. Her addition, along with others, created a solid chemistry that resulted in a NWSL Championship. This is now her second title in three seasons and her second in a row.  

Ryan will hopefully receive more recognition for her work in the NWSL. Although, she has been overlooked for the last two seasons. As she enters her fourth year in the league and second with NJ/NY Gotham FC, Ryan will only get better from here as she enters the prime of her career.