Orlando Pride

2019 Orlando Pride Season in Review: Dani Weatherholt



The fact that midfielder Dani Weatherholt is still in the NWSL is a success story. Most fourth-round selections don’t stick in the pros, and the Pride used the 31st overall pick in the NWSL College Draft to select Weatherholt back in 2016. She was able to make the inaugural Pride team with her tenacity and ball-winning skills and became a regular in the lineup over the last few years.

Orlando then re-signed the Santa Clara product after the 2017 season, and exercised her option in October of 2018, showing that the club valued her contributions. From her first season to her second, she jumped from 12 appearances and nine starts to 19 appearances and 17 starts and earned a rating of 7 from The Mane Land staff for her breakout year of 2017. She played in 23 of 24 matches and again started 17 times in 2018, earning a 7 once again for her solid play on a Pride team that underperformed as a whole.

So, how did the fourth-year midfielder progress in 2019?

Statistical Breakdown

Weatherholt appeared in 19 matches this past season, starting 16 of them — her fewest starts since her rookie season — and playing 1,341 minutes. She contributed no goals or assists on the season — the first time that has happened since her rookie year. She seemed unable to get involved in the attack, attempting just four shots all season (one on target). Only Bridget Callahan among the club’s midfielders had fewer shot attempts. Weatherholt passed at a 73.3% rate, which was a slight drop from last year’s 76.4% and the second consecutive season her accuracy fell from its high of 81.6% in 2017. She contributed six key passes on the year.

The Santa Clara product won just 43.9% of her duels — a problem throughout the midfield, in which only Callahan reached 50% in that category — but 53.1% of her aerial duels. She finished with 33 clearances, 12 blocks, and 17 interceptions on the season. Her tackle percentage of 60.9% was well behind former National Team Replacement Player Callahan (80%) and rookie Marisa Viggiano (83.3%). Weatherholt committed 21 fouls on the season — finishing second in that category behind Rachel Hill’s 33 — and drew 14 on the opposition, but she saw only one yellow card on the year.

Best Game

Without a notable standout highlight, picking a best match for Weatherholt isn’t easy. One looks a lot like another in terms of passing percentage, touches, etc. However, despite the result, I’m going to go with the 3-0 home loss to the Washington Spirit on Oct. 5. Weatherholt played all 90 minutes and attempted 60 passes in the match, completing 95% of them. It was by far her best passing accuracy of the season and led all Pride players. She also led the team with 78 touches in the match and created one scoring chance, committing two fouls, and drawing one free kick. In what was a poor game for Orlando as a whole, Weatherholt performed mostly well under the circumstances.

2019 Final Grade

Like many others on the team, Weatherholt’s grade might be skewed a bit by a dismal team performance, with several new and lesser experienced players seeing significant minutes in 2019, along with learning a new system that is quite different than what the Pride played under Tom Sermanni. As such, The Mane Land staff gave Weatherholt a composite grade of 4.5 for her 2019 season. The midfielder often looked uncomfortable in Marc Skinner’s system and it’s difficult to tell if it’s because she had trouble adjusting to it or couldn’t count on her teammates to be where they were supposed to be — or a combination of the two.

2020 Outlook

Weatherholt is still just 25 years old and seems to be a player with value. If Skinner doesn’t believe she fits his system, she’s one player who could bring back some value in a trade. The club exercised its option on her after the 2019 season but that isn’t a guarantee she’ll be back in purple next season. Whether the Pride try to flip her to another team to fill a need or bring her back for 2020 is something I’ll be interested in finding out over the course of this off-season.

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