The Orlando Pride announced today that forward Darian Jenkins has decided to call it a career. Jenkins, 28, played six seasons of professional soccer, joining the Pride last season, but surprisingly announced her retirement, even though she was under contract with Orlando through the upcoming 2023 season. She retires after spending just one year and one week with the Pride.
“After 21 years of playing, I have decided that it’s time for me to hang up my boots and step away from the beautiful game,” Jenkins said in a club press release. “My body and mind are ready for the next chapter. This isn’t an easy decision, but being able to retire on my own terms has given me peace. I know I’ve given everything I can to the game on and off the field, and feel proud of myself with how much I overcame in each phase of my career.
“Thank you to the amazing people I have had the pleasure to work with during my career — my coaches, teammates, my agency, and most importantly, the fans. You have helped make me into the confident and determined woman I am today. And a special thank you to my Pride girlies, I’m happy to have ended it in purple with you all and everything we overcame. It’s been such an amazing experience and one I’ll miss immensely.”
The Pride acquired forward Darian Jenkins on Jan. 11 of last year 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 Riverton, Utah native 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.
For her lone season in Orlando, Jenkins received a rating of 5.5 out of 10 from The Mane Land staff.
“Darian is an incredible player, professional, and teammate, and we are going to deeply miss her here in Orlando,” Pride Head Coach Seb Hines said in the club’s release. “She’s a player who represented the values of our crest, both on and off the field, and we are lucky to have had her in purple. It’s never easy to see a player step away from the game, but, having been in this position before, I’m happy that she is at peace and excited to start the next chapter of her life. On behalf of everyone at the club, our fans, and our community, we thank Darian for being part of our history and wish her nothing but the best in what comes next.”
The No. 7 overall pick (by North Carolina) in the 2017 NWSL College Draft, Jenkins was coming off a collegiate career in which she won a national championship while at UCLA in 2013. During her time in Los Angeles, Jenkins was an All-Pac-12 player in three of her four seasons.
She began her professional career in 2017 with the Courage, playing 13 matches across two seasons without scoring a goal. North Carolina traded Jenkins to the club now known as OL Reign on Dec. 17, 2018. While with the Reign, Jenkins played in 17 matches in two seasons, scoring four goals. She had a couple of loan stints in Australia and France with Melbourne Victory and Bordeaux, respectively from 2019-2021. She scored five goals in 12 matches in Australia and did not score in five appearances in France.
Kansas City acquired Jenkins via trade on Jan. 4, 2021, along with the rights to Meg Brandt and the 38th overall pick in the 2021 NWSL Draft in exchange for Tziarra King and a second-round pick in 2022. Prior to the 2022 season, the Pride made the move to acquire her services.
She now retires with 11 goals and three assists to her name in 83 NWSL games.
On the international stage, Jenkins represented the United States at the U-17, U-18, U-20, and U-23 levels. In six combined caps, she scored twice — both at the U-17 level.
What It Means for Orlando
Jenkins was a pacey player who created trouble for opposing defenses on the wing, and she could play up top, but she has struggled to finish her opportunities throughout her career. With the Pride adding Ally Watt late last season and Messiah Bright in last week’s draft, Marta returning from injury, and Haley Bugeja potentially ready to take on an increased role in 2023, the forward positions were starting to get a bit crowded. Julie Doyle, 2023 draft pick Kristen Scott, Kerry Abello, and Erika Tymrak can also play on the wings, although Scott would need to sign a contract to join the roster. Jenkins would have been a good depth player at multiple attacking positions, but the Pride have numbers up top. Whether those players produce more this year remains to be seen.
It was fun watching Jenkins do her thing for one season in Orlando and now there’s nothing to do but wish her luck on the next step of her journey.