CARY, NC (December 19, 2021) – The North Carolina Courage today announced they have agreed to terms with defender Jaelene Daniels on a one-year deal, with an additional one-year option in 2023. This marks Daniels’ return to professional soccer following her retirement in 2020 and the birth of her first child in August of this year.
“I’m so excited to get back to playing with the Courage,” Daniels said. “This past year has truly been so refreshing for my body and mind. I’m thankful I said I was retiring because it truly allowed me to be able to take a step back, enjoy my family and friends, become a mom and be reminded of how much I love soccer. It was a season of life I didn’t know I needed. I’m really looking forward to the challenge ahead and I’m grateful to the Courage for giving me the opportunity to play again.”
Daniels was drafted seventh overall out of Texas Tech in the 2015 NWSL Draft to the Western New York Flash where she started all 20 games as a rookie defender. Daniels was also prominent in the Flash’s NWSL Championship season in 2016, starting 15 matches including the NWSL Semifinal and Final. She converted her penalty kick in the championship match to help secure her first of three NWSL Championships.
“The addition of Jaelene back into our team is one that we are excited to have,” Head Coach Sean Nahas said. “Having stepped away from the game to start a family, she recognized the love and passion she still had for the game, as well as for her time here in NC, where she had so much success to help the club win titles. Jae and I had some very good conversations leading up to her signing and bringing her back into where she wanted to be, and that is here in NC. To add such a great talent to our team, one who knows us and is comfortable with what we do, is something that we are looking forward to as we begin to move forward into the 2022 season.”
As a defender for the NC Courage, Daniels consistently made an impact on the field with 22 starts during both the 2017 and 2018 seasons. In 2018, Daniels was part of the backline that broke the record for the fewest goals conceded in an NWSL season as the team only lost one match and clinched the NWSL Championship.
In 2019, Daniels played every minute of all 24 Courage regular-season matches as the team won their second-consecutive NWSL Championship and third-consecutive NWSL Shield. She was voted by her teammates as the team’s Defender of the Year. She had six assists during the year, which put her tied for third-most assists in the league.
“It was a huge blow when Jae decided to retire after the Challenge Cup in 2020, but we understood her decision and are thrilled for her and Matthew on the arrival of their baby, Zoe,” President and GM Curt Johnson said. “Jae has been a huge part of our biggest moments as a Club and she is someone that we are excited to welcome back. She is one of the most decorated players in league history and will be a valuable part of our 2022 team and beyond”
In her six-year professional career, Daniels won three NWSL Championships, a Women’s International Champions Cup Championship, and three NWSL Shields. She was on the field for 50 of the NC Courage’s wins over the past four seasons, and started and played in 99 regular-season games, five Challenge Cup matches, and eight playoff matches. Daniels scored three career goals and had 18 assists in the NWSL. She also totalled eight caps with the United States Women’s National Team with her first call up to the team coming in 2015.
“The possibility of a player returning with such impact, both on and off the field, sparked a lot of discussion internally, and with a cross section of fans,” Club Owner Steve Malik said. “As a result of those discussions, we made the decision to welcome Jae back based on her positive impact she had on the Courage’s successful history. We look forward to seeing Jaelene on the field and welcoming her and her family back into our club.”