On July 4, 2006, Kristopher Tyrpak’s family gathered for Independence Day at his house in Dripping Springs, Texas, but this time his family didn’t just come over to celebrate . . . they wanted to hear if Tyrpak would choose to play soccer or baseball. Tyrpak picked soccer; and since, he hasn’t looked back.

“In 8th grade my parents said listen, you have to choose which one do you want to play,” said Tyrpak who was 14 at the time. “I’m a pretty active person, so of course I am going to want to play soccer.“

The decision was met with the support of his family, who has also been there for Kristopher. His parents and grandparents – who were at the house when he chose soccer – watch all his home games, cheering him on from the stands.

Credit: Nikki Qiao for Austin Aztex

“My wife and I are deeply family orientated,” said Kristopher’s grandfather, Walter Tyrpak. “So consequently, it was no effort at all to follow Kris in his soccer endeavors.”

Walter was originally surprised his grandson chose soccer, saying Tyrpak was a fantastic shortstop. The decision, however, didn’t sway Walter’s support, and he even has watched his grandson in ice, sun, and rain with the rest of his family. They also traveled around the country to tournaments with his club teams Austin United and Lonestar SC, and one of Walter’s cars eventually died wandering around the States watching Kristopher.

The Aztex player added: “Without (the support from my family) I don’t see what I would do. I can guarantee I wouldn’t be where I am right now, because through those times I wanted to quit they were there, saying no you cannot quit, you really do love it.”

The time when Tyrpak thought about quitting was during his freshman year. Although burnt out from constantly playing the sport, his family kept pushing him and wouldn’t let him quit – reminding him of the passion he had playing soccer under Wolfgang Suhnholz.

Suhnholz, the current Austin Aztex Super-20 coach and former youth club coach for Tyrpak, bestowed the passion to play soccer upon the Aztex player. The former Bayern Munich player was Tyrpak’s favorite coach growing up, and Suhnholz’s knowledge kept him in soccer. If he ever had a question as a young player, Tyrpak knew he could talk to Suhnholz, the man who helped him develop into the player he is today.

It also helped that the former Dripping Springs high school player began maturing into a bigger, faster soccer player between his sophomore and junior year. The combination of Suhnholz’s coaching when Tyrpak was younger and stronger frame aided Trypak’s jump from two goals his sophomore year in high school to more than 30 his junior year.

The increase in production paved the way for the Austin-born player to begin receiving scholarship offers from colleges across the United States. Interested programs included Ohio State, Dayton, Central Florida, and North Carolina, but Tyrpak chose to play closer to home earning a full scholarship from Houston Baptist.

Playing in Houston meant his family could easily travel to games, while also playing at an NCAA Division I school. The perfect fit worked out early with Tyrpak as he led the Huskies in points, 21, and goals, 8, while being named the Atlantic Soccer Conference Rookie of the Year and to the Atlantic Soccer Conference First Team his freshman year.

He built off his first year with another strong campaign the next season in 2011, achieving Atlantic Soccer Conference Second Team honors. His sophomore year was also when the rebirth of the Aztex were announced, a team the local Austin product grew up watching.

It wasn’t long after the announcement that Tyrpak was asked to join the Aztex. Because he is 20, the HBU player originally thought he would play for the Aztex Super-20 squad until he received a surprising phone call from Paul Dalglish.

“I was getting ready to kick the ball around with some friends, and (Dalglish) called me,” Tyrpak said. “I didn’t know who it was at first, and he said ‘I’m Paul Dalglish the coach of the Austin Aztex.”

Dalglish eventually offered Tyrpak a spot on the Premier Development League team. The Austin native couldn’t contain his excitement, and he wrote a note to his girlfriend who was in the room that read ‘Dalglish wants me on the top team.’ Tyrpak instantly called his family telling them the good news, and a week later his grandpa was already looking to buy season tickets.

Tyrpak’s progression as a player has continued with the Austin Aztex. He has started every game since joining the club, but one match particularly sticks out. With the Aztex hyping the organization as “Austin’s team” before the club’s first home game at House Park, Austin-born Tyrpak stole the show with a hat trick in a 6-1 win over the El Paso Patriots in the club’s opening home match. The performance left an imprint that not only the fans want soccer back in the city; but also, Austin has the talented soccer players who can compete at a high level.

“Playing in front of that big of a crowd, in your hometown and being able to score goals in front of the fans is surreal,” Tyrpak said. “It is unlike anything.”

Tyrpak dreamed of putting on the Aztex uniform when he was playing youth soccer in Austin. When he wears the jersey for the city that he loves and grew up in, it means a little more for Tyrpak. The Austin-born player said if he doesn’t make it to MLS, he always wanted to play professionally in Austin, and in the future that could be an option.

What most people do not know about Tyrpak is that his career could end on one play. The headgear he wears is to protect against concussions, which he has suffered multiple in the past. Concussions recently ended the career of one of America’s most promising strikers – Taylor Twellman.

Tyrpak suffered his first concussion his junior year during state playoffs when he knocked heads with an opposing player and woke up on the sidelines. From his junior and senior year, the HBU player said he endured four more concussions before a doctor told him that, ‘if he were concussed again, he would have to stop playing soccer.’ The injury gives Tyrpak a different perspective every time he steps on the field.

“I step out each game playing like it could be my last,” Tyrpak said. “Depending on if a concussion happens, it could be my last game, so I have to treat it like it’s my last.”

For the Aztex, Tyrpak performs with the intensity that it could be his last game. Playing wide on the right wing, the Austin native works tirelessly for his club, and has scored four goals and provided two assists in 10 games.

Because of his work ethic and attitude, Tyrpak deserves ending his soccer career on his own terms, not because of an injury.