The Orlando Pride acquired forward Darian Jenkins on Jan. 11 from the Kansas City Current in exchange for the club’s natural second-round selection in the 2023 NWSL Draft and $75,000 in Allocation Money. The move made a lot of sense, as the Pride looked to get younger and faster in the attack as compared to 2021 and Jenkins had some familiarity playing with then-coach Amanda Cromwell. Jenkins had scored 29 career goals while at UCLA, but had bounced around the NWSL after being selected No. 7 overall in 2017 by North Carolina.
The hope was that Jenkins could benefit from regular playing time under a familiar coach and she might be able to revive a career that had been a bit underwhelming due to injuries and inconsistent roles as a professional.
Let’s look back at her first year in Orlando.
Jenkins played in all six of Orlando’s matches in the 2022 NWSL Challenge Cup, starting five and logging 456 minutes. She scored two goals and added an assist, attempting 12 shots and getting four on target. The UCLA product passed at a 64.6% rate on 127 attempts in the competition, logging one key pass. She only connected on one of her nine crosses and was only successful on 16.7% of her long passes. Defensively, she contributed a clearance, an interception, and a 60% tackle success rate, and winning 56% of her duels and 80% of her aerial duels. She won six fouls, conceded four, and picked up one yellow card.
In the regular season, Jenkins played in 17 matches, starting 14 and logging 1,260 minutes this season, missing three games due to minor injuries and two others due to coach’s decision. Despite all of those extra minutes, Jenkins duplicated her Challenge Cup goal contributions, scoring twice and adding one assist in NWSL league play. She passed at a 70.8% success rate on 353 attempts, going 46.7% on long passes and connecting on eight of 27 crosses in open play. Her 13 key passes indicate that she should have finished with more than just the one assist. Defensively, Jenkins contributed 12 clearances, 10 interceptions, and one block. She won 56% of her 25 tackle attempts, 44.4% of her 189 duels, and 56.3% of her 32 aerial duels. She won 18 fouls but conceded 19 and was booked once.
Jenkins’ best match with the Pride in 2022 came at the expense of the team that drafted her in the first round in the 2017 NWSL Draft. Jenkins left her biggest mark in Orlando’s 4-2 loss on April 16 at home against the North Carolina Courage in the NWSL Challenge Cup. The visitors pounced on the Pride early, scoring three times in the game’s first nine minutes. Jenkins pulled one of those goals back in the 15th minute with her first strike in a Pride uniform. Leah Pruitt blocked a poor pass out of the back by North Carolina goalkeeper Katelyn Rowland and it fell for Jenkins, who blasted it home.
Just after halftime, Jenkins pulled the Pride within a goal. Kerry Abello got her head on a cross in from the right and sent it in front, where Jenkins swept it in for a brace.
Despite the comeback bid, led by Jenkins, the Pride couldn’t find an equalizer and gave up a late insurance tally. But Jenkins scored twice on four shots (two on target) — both team highs. Jenkins went the full 90 minutes, completing 55% of her 20 pass attempts. She led Orlando in aerials won (3) and had one ball recovery, committed one foul in the game, and was booked. The result of the match wasn’t good and there was room for improvement in Jenkins’ game, but she showed what she can do with her performance.
2022 Final Grade
The Mane Land staff gives Jenkins a composite rating of 5.5 out of 10 for her season-long performance. She was Orlando’s most dangerous-looking player at times but there were certainly issues with some of her decision-making in the final third and precision in both attacking-third passes and scoring attempts. Her speed and movement gave teams problems but the final product often broke down, wasting chances to either put teams away or to get back in games. Ideally, you’d like a forward with more than 1,200 league minutes to score more than two goals.
I’m a little unclear about Jenkins’ contract situation. The Orlando Pride’s game notes indicate she is under contract through the 2023 NWSL season, but the latest information I found from her career prior to her arrival was a two-year contract offered after the 2020 NWSL Fall Series, which would have had her locked up only through the end of this season. It’s possible that my Google-fu missed a contract extension somewhere along the way. Either way, the Pride seem to like Jenkins and she did prove to be a good attacking threat in 2022. If she can develop her first touch and final third passing a little more, and be a bit more lethal in front of goal, she could become an extremely valuable player. If not, she may be relegated to a bench role. This is already Jenkins’ fourth NWSL team and she’ll turn 28 in January, so maybe she’s already reached her ceiling in those areas.
Previous Season in Review Articles (Date Posted)
- Kaylie Collins (10/11/22)
- Parker Roberts (10/13/22)
- Haley Bugeja (10/14/22)
- Anna Moorhouse (10/15/22)
- Thais Reiss (10/15/22)
- Marta (10/16/22)
- Chelsee Washington (10/18/22)
- Ally Watt (10/18/22)
- Haley Hanson (10/19/22)
- Jordyn Listro (10/20/22)
- Leah Pruitt (10/21/22)
- Carrie Lawrence (10/22/22)
- Erika Tymrak (10/23/22)
- Julie Doyle (10/24/22)