When Tom Sermanni and the Orlando Pride selected Dani Weatherholt in the fourth round of the 2016 NWSL College Draft, it was unlikely they could predict how valuable the Santa Clara product would become by the club’s second year. Weatherholt is the last player standing from that initial draft, after the club traded Sam Witteman in the off-season for Alanna Kennedy, and waived Christina Burkenroad during the 2017 season to clear roster space for Alex Morgan’s return from Lyon.
In her first season, Weatherholt made 12 appearances (nine starts), playing a variety of positions without scoring a goal or registering an assist, and totaling only seven shot attempts (three on target). She was largely a role player in 2016 with an undefined role. In 2017, Sermanni eventually defined a clear role for Weatherholt and she responded with a solid sophomore campaign.
A regular with the United States U-23 Women’s National Team, Weatherholt was part of the team that went 2-1 at the international tournament in La Manga, Spain prior to the 2017 NWSL season.
Shecapped her 2017 season by taking home the club’s “Golden Swan” for Humanitarian of the Year. She earned the award by being quick to volunteer her time in the community, visiting patients at Orlando Health, and working Orlando City Foundation events like the club’s Soccer for Success programs.
So how did she do in her second season?
Weatherholt played primarily in a holding midfield role, appearing in 19 of the team’s 24 regular-season games and in the semifinal match at Portland. She started 17 times in the regular season and in the playoff game. She didn’t dress only for the June 3 win vs. Boston and she was an unused sub June 17 and 24, July 1, and Aug. 8. The Pride went 3-2 when she didn’t play and 2-2 when she was an unused sub.
In her 1,486 minutes on the field during the 2017 regular season, Weatherholt scored one goal and added an assist, fired eight shots (three on target), completed 81.6% of her passes, had 20 clearances, committed 20 fouls — earning only one yellow card — and earning 12 free kicks. Her passing rate was fifth best on the team out of players who made at least five appearances.
Weatherholt’s best game came in one of the Pride’s most dominating performances of the 2017 season — a 5-0 home drubbing of Sky Blue FC on Aug. 12. She started in the Pride midfield and helped lock down Sky Blue for the club’s second consecutive shutout and third clean sheet of the season. With her club leading 1-0, Weatherholt watched teammate Camila free herself up with a sick move and then provided the finish to the Brazilian’s excellent cross for her first goal as a professional in the 43rd minute.
43' - Camila with a perfect cross back across goal for @daniweatherholt, who cleanly puts it away for a 2-0 @ORLPride lead. #ORLvNJ pic.twitter.com/mqTtLzIx95— NWSL (@NWSL) August 13, 2017
That goal helped pave the way for the eventual 5-0 win. But Weatherholt also played great defense and passed at an 84% clip in what was an excellent outing before being replaced by Maddy Evans in the 62nd minute in the latter’s final game prior to retirement.
Final 2017 Grade
The Mane Land gives Weatherholt’s 2017 season a solid composite rating of 7 for her standout play this past season. With a more clear-cut role in her second season, Weatherholt played more relaxed and confidently and helped the Pride both offensively and defensively with strong two-way play. Her outstanding pass to Morgan in the 92nd minute of a Sept. 7 home meeting with the Seattle Reign should have set up the game-winner, but alas the team conceded two minutes after Morgan’s goal. Her usual pairing with Alanna Kennedy and Camila made for a strong group that was able to connect the back line with the attacking players, helping to give the Pride the league’s most lethal offense.
Weatherholt’s contract expired following the 2017 season, but the club recognizes her value and the Pride have offered her a new contract. Midfield partner Kennedy is in the same boat, with a new offer on the table for 2018. If both accept their offers, the Pride should again have one of the league’s most dynamic two-way midfields in 2018, particularly after Camila returns from her knee injury. Weatherholt made a big jump from her first to second NWSL season, and there still seems to be plenty of upside for the 23-year-old out of San Clemente, CA. We’d like to see her back in purple next season.