By Josh Brown
Miami Valley Today
TROY — Since graduating from Troy High School, star soccer player Erin Yenney has gone pro and seen the world.
But the global pandemic has her back at home.
Yenney, who has played professional women’s soccer in Sweden, Columbia, the United States and most recently Finland, was at home in Troy and in the process of looking for a team to sign with when the coronavirus, COVID-19, shut down practically every sports league in the world. And though she plans on continuing her soccer career when the threat of the pandemic is over, she welcomes the opportunity to spend time back with her family.
“I’ve been so grateful for this time. When in my life am I going to have this much time with my family?” she said. “Being here with my parents has been so nice. And my younger brother J.T. came home, too. He was a senior at the University of Dayton and was heartbroken that he missed the last few weeks of his college experience, so I’ve been able to spend a lot of time with him, too.
“It wasn’t the plan, but there’s always something positive you can take from any situation. This all just makes you think about what really matters.”
After graduating from Troy in 2011, Yenney played college soccer at the University of Louisville, where she graduated from with her master’s degree in industrial engineering in 2016. She then left for Sweden for her first stint with a professional women’s soccer team the same year with Östersunds DFF, where she played 13 games and scored one goal.
In 2017, she then played for Independiente Santa Fe in Bogota, Columbia, in the Liga Águila Femenina — the first year the country had a professional women’s league. She then returned to America to play for the National Women’s Soccer League’s Chicago Red Stars in 2018, playing three games for them, then signed briefly with Reign FC in Tacoma, Washington in early 2019 before being released. She played the 2019 season for Åland United, a team in Lemland from the Åland Islands, an autonomous territory of Finland.
“I’ve obviously really enjoyed it, and I probably never would have foreseen this path I’ve been on,” Yenney said of her professional career. “Everywhere I’ve played, I’ve learned something unique and have enjoyed for different reasons. Going from a smaller town in northern Sweden to the capital of Columbia was a night and day difference in culture. To live in these different cultures and be able to build the relationships I have, I’m thankful for each one. I still keep in touch with a lot of the people I’ve met, and those relationships will probably last my lifetime.
“I always knew I wanted to travel after college — even if I wasn’t a soccer player, I would maybe have joined the Peace Corps. But soccer has been an amazing vessel for traveling, so I get to live out my dream of playing soccer and my desire to learn about different cultures and meet new people.”
When it comes to highlights, Yenney said she’ll never forget her time with Sante Fe, as it was a huge moment for women’s soccer in the country of Colombia.
“It was the first year for any women’s pro league, so that will always stick out. It was just so special to be part of, for what it meant for Colombian society and changing its viewpoints about females in sports,” Yenney said. “Being around girls that had dreamed their whole lives of playing professionally in their home country, it just clicked why they were so passionate. They were playing every day to prove not just to themselves but to the whole country that they deserve to be playing at the professional level.”
And though Yenney was injured at the time, seeing her Santa Fe team celebrate the country’s first ever female championship was the experience of a lifetime.
“We got to host the championship game, and the stadium was packed with 35,000 fans. It was absolutely incredible,” she said. “Unfortunately, I was injured at the time, so I was in the stands with the other injured girls who weren’t rostered for that game. We won the game, and the girls walked around the entire stadium with the fans going crazy, then we had an awards ceremony with the trophy and confetti and everything.
“I’ll never forget it. To see that kind of support for a women’s team in a country that hadn’t had them before, it was really special. It’s hard to put into words.”
Yenney also saw success in her return to Europe with Åland United, scoring three goals in eight games — including one in her debut and one in the season finale.
“It’s an island between Finland and Sweden, so it’s technically part of Finland, but the language spoken there is Swedish — which was good for me, since I learned some Swedish while playing there,” Yenney said. “For all of our away games, if it was a 2 p.m. game on Saturday, we’d leave on an 11 p.m. ferry Friday night, sleep in a cabin there, arrive in Helsinki at 10 a.m. Saturday and take a bus to wherever our game was.
“That’s actually what happened my first game there. I arrived in Åland on Friday morning, slept, took the ferry Friday night and got ready for the game. They knew I’d be super jet lagged and tired, so I only played the second half — but I managed to get a goal off of a corner kick somehow.
“I got another goal midseason, and then I scored another in our last game, which was actually a big one since we needed to win that game to finish third in the league. We did win, and that game was on my birthday, too, so that was pretty cool.”
And when the pandemic shut down the sports world, Yenney — who was inducted into Troy’s Athletic Hall of Fame in the fall of 2019 — was home in Troy waiting to see where she would play next.
“I didn’t know where I was going to go,” she said. “I got back from Finland in the middle of November, and my agent was trying to find me a team. I was planning to leave in January, but January came, I got some bites but nothing came through. Another window opened up in March, so I was continuing to train and get ready to go and sign with a team in March — and there was some interest that first week of March, but then that’s when everything started unraveling. So honestly, it’s probably better that I didn’t end up going somewhere in February.”
But once the threat of the pandemic is over and sports becomes an option again, Yenney plans to continue playing.
“Right now, I’m trying to stay on top of my training and stay in shape, but I’m also trying to stay mentally fit,” Yenney said. “My plan was to be playing overseas this year. Also, in 2021, Louisville FC is starting a pro team in the NWSL, so I’d love to play there. It’s my second home, I went to school and played there, so that’s a goal of mine now. But of course, we don’t know what things will look like the rest of this year or even next year. I’m still taking it day by day, I’ve been leaning on my faith and I’m going to try and follow my heart. I always said I’d stop playing if I didn’t love it anymore, but I still have that desire to continue playing.
“There’s a lot of hardship and challenge going on right now, and hopefully we can come out of this stronger and more together, with a better sense of community and togetherness as a country and even globally.”
Contact Josh Brown at [email protected].
©2020 Miami Valley Today, all rights reserved.