CARY, N.C. – North Carolina Courage defender Jaelene Daniels Wednesday announced her retirement from professional soccer following her sixth season in the National Women’s Soccer League.
Daniels, 27, played two seasons with the Western New York Flash before the team was relocated to Cary as the Courage, where she played all four seasons with the team.
“Playing for the North Carolina Courage for the past four years has truly been a gift and an honor,” Daniels said in a statement. “North Carolina is a special, special place, and I’ll always hold it near and dear to my heart.”
Daniels won eight caps with the U.S. women’s national team with her first call-up to the team in 2015.
Like it or not, Daniels will be remembered for refusing to play for the USWNT in June 2017 because she did not want to wear jerseys in honor of LGBTQ Pride Month during some friendlies. Then known as Jaelene Hinkle, she is a devout Christian. She began using her married name this year.
“I just felt so convicted in my spirit that it wasn’t my job to wear this jersey,” Hinkle told the Christian talk show, The 700 Club in 2018. “I gave myself three days to just seek and pray and determine what he was asking me to do in this situation. … I knew in my spirit I was doing the right thing. I knew I was being obedient.”
Courage head coach Paul Riley wished Daniels well.
“Jaelene is unquestionably the best left-back in the world,” he said in a statement. “The complete modern fullback; tremendous engine, speed, delivery, brilliant going forward and tough to beat one on one. It’s been amazing to see her growth and development into a fabulous player. She has won three of the last four NWSL championships and the last three NWSL Shields. She knows how to win and I’m sure she will continue to do that in the next step of her life. She is a courageous, strong, and brave woman that I am privileged to have coached. You can’t replace Jae, but you can look back and know that she had a marvelously successful career.”
Daniels was drafted seventh overall out of Texas Tech in the 2015 NWSL Draft by the Flash where she started all 20 games as a rookie. 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 final to help secure her first of three NWSL championships.
With the Courage, Daniels 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 its second consecutive NWSL title and third straight 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.
Daniels participated in the NWSL Challenge Cup in June and July, playing all but 10 minutes in the Courage’s five matches. Daniels assisted Abby Erceg’s game-winning goal against the Chicago Red Stars on July 5.
In her six-year professional career, Daniels won three NWSL Championships, a Women’s International Champions Cup Championship, and three NWSL Shields.