Angel City FC’s 11-game unbeaten streak came to an end Monday, leaving behind a team that has grown immensely over the course of the season.

The streak began when interim head coach Becki Tweed took over for Freya Coombe, who was fired by Angel City midway through the season. The streak started on June 17, with a 2-1 rivalry win against the San Diego Wave, and ended on Oct. 2, with a 1-0 loss to the Orlando Pride.

Even after their first loss in months, Angel City players sung Tweed’s praises for helping them to find their identity as a team.

“She’s made it super competitive, has uplifted us but also motivated us,” defender Paige Nielsen said. “Sets the right tone at training and it’s carried us to success.”

Midfielder Dani Weatherholt agreed, adding: “We’re developing an identity that I think is allowing us to play free and allowing us to be competitive in the league. I think before it was very unsure, and we got by with our grit and our fight in our heart, [now] you’re seeing more tactical awareness and more of an identity.”

Of course, players know it will take time to build a foundation on which the club can build. But Nielsen already is seeing “so much growth,” and she believes the mix of young players and veterans is promising for the future.

Their identity, she says, is “coming together.” And while it might be difficult to lose after going unbeaten for 11 straight, Tweed knows it’s a good learning moment for her team in the midst of the NWSL playoff race.

“It’s never easy to lose a game, especially at this point in the season where the table is so close,” she said. “What’s important for us is that we learn from it, we move on. I don’t think it’s a game where we’ve been outplayed. I don’t think it’s a game where we can walk away from it saying that we were beaten by the other team – we beat ourselves.

“Togetherness is now important. We move on from it and move into the next game. This league is wild, who knows what happens in the next two games, but we’re just going to do what we can do to be in control of what you can control.”

Two weeks remain in the NWSL regular season. Angel City sits in ninth place with 25 points, just three points out of the sixth and final playoff spot.

Dani Weatherholt’s first-ever soccer team was with her imaginary friends in the backyard of her childhood home just outside of Los Angeles. She’d organize scrimmages on the lawn beside the chipped chimney that she pitched softballs against for hours before.

“I would say, ‘Who’s she talking to?’” laughs her mother, Gail.

One of Weatherholt’s softball friends had invited her to the SoCal Blues’ Friday night clinics, but Gail had missed the sign-up. So, Weatherholt spent an entire season initiating her own backyard training sessions before joining the Blues at the age of 9, getting a banana and a Snickers bar from her dad before every game.

Her older, baseball-playing brothers were her role models at the time. There was no Angel City FC, no women’s professional soccer nearby. She had no idea that she would go from her empty backyard in Capistrano Beach, Calif., to a sold-out Banc of California Stadium two decades later, when Angel City joined the NWSL.

“It’s a dream come true,” Weatherholt, 28, says now, two months into her first season with the expansion club. “I don’t think many people get the opportunity to play where they grew up.”

‘Bigger than soccer’

Weatherholt’s rise up the youth soccer ranks was far from a straight-line path.

Nursing a torn meniscus at 9 years old, Weatherholt was placed on the SoCals B team and ended up staying there until the age of 14. Other soccer parents would tell her to go to a different club, that she deserved to play at a higher level. Her dad, however, believed if she wanted a spot on an A team, she had to earn it.

Weatherholt was finally called up to the A team midway through one season in her early teenage years. But she didn’t go. There was no way she was leaving her B teammates and coach behind, so she remained with them until the end of the year.

“She cared more about the team than herself and that was unheard of. It still is unheard of,” says Weatherholt’s high school coach, Stacey Finnerty. “I think kids, especially with women’s soccer, girls’ soccer, the parents are like, ‘You’ve got to be on the best team, be with the best kids and leave everyone,’ and they leave their teammates. With Dani, she just doesn’t do that. She’s team first.”

Finnerty coached Weatherholt for four years at San Clemente High School, becoming one of Weatherholt’s first and most impactful female role models in soccer. As the only female coach in the league, Finnerty demonstrated the value of women leadership, years before Weatherholt joined Angel City, with a majority female ownership group and front office staff.

After Weatherholt made the A team, she peaked as a soccer player, becoming more aware of the field and better positioned to shut down dangerous opponents. Soon, she earned a call-up to the U17 and U18 national programs.

For all of her successes, Weatherholt remained an “old soul” who always put others above herself. The San Clemente Hall of Famer certainly had the normal teenage struggles, juggling school and life, but the way she carried herself made it hard for others to know that.

As Finnerty explains, she had a way of connecting with her teammates and making every one of them feel special. On and off the field, she brought out the best in both the star and bench players. When she was on the San Clemente bench with an injury, she was able to get the beginners more engaged in the game than they otherwise would have been.

“No one really played just for themselves, and she cultured that into our program, into our team. It’s easy to win with Dani because she was who she was — a super magical, special kid,” Finnerty says.

That Weatherholt could make time for soccer in the first place was as impressive as her contributions to her teams.

The only female athlete in San Clemente history with 12 varsity letters, Weatherholt, at times, played for eight teams at once. Heavily involved in golf and softball as well as soccer, she dropped everything else to be at practices, games and class, and whenever she missed something, she would find a way to catch up and make up for it.

“I don’t know how she did it,” says Finnerty.

Through it all, she ended up as the fifth-ranked high school soccer player in SoCal and the 19th nationally, leading her team to their first state regional championship and a top national ranking.

Her motto: “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”

Being a good teammate has been central to Weatherholt's soccer career. (Jenny Chuang/Angel City FC)

Of all the sports Weatherholt played, soccer was her favorite because it allowed for more creativity than golf and softball.

She also found a sense of community in soccer, as it connected her with people from other parts of the world. When she was young, her family would visit her dad’s fishing friends in Mexico. Returning every Easter, Weatherholt would bring them soccer equipment and find commonalities through soccer.

With a love of travel and community, Weatherholt has continued to share the game with kids around the world. She traveled to Nicaragua with Soccer Without Borders, an organization that gives underprivileged youth an opportunity to receive coaching and equipment. They knocked on doors and invited young girls to come play for the first time.

“Soccer was always something where you put the ball down and it didn’t matter where you came from, it immediately broke barriers,” she says. “It became a pillar to why I play the game, and ever since then, it’s always had to be something bigger than soccer.”

The journey back to L.A.

Weatherholt left California in 2016 as a goal-driven 22-year-old, eager to get her first pro contract with the Orlando Pride, who selected her as the 31st overall pick in that year’s College Draft.

After going to school at Santa Clara, Weatherholt was living away from California for the first time and regularly moving to different apartments. In 2018, she even went overseas to Australia for 12 matches with the Melbourne Victory. Through the constant changes, she learned to create a home within herself, until she reached a point when she was ready to return to the West Coast and play closer to her physical home.

Ahead of the 2020 season, Weatherholt moved to Seattle to play for OL Reign, where she was able to train for two years with some of the best midfielders in the world, including 2021 NWSL MVP Jess Fishlock, World Cup champion Rose Lavelle and Olympic gold medalist Quinn. People asked her why she went to the Reign when other teams could have given her more playing time, and she said she wanted teammates who could take her under their wing.

“It was really a good experience for me to learn from them, so I’m really grateful I put myself in that situation,” she says.

While the Reign exemplified strong team culture, the Pride, where she played from 2016-19, matched her love of getting involved with the community. That’s how she met Zayne Burton, a young cancer patient whose family Weatherholt got to know after she brought him a signed Alex Morgan jersey when he was in the hospital. She has cited her friendship with Burton and his family as one of her favorite memories during her soccer career.

When asked how the Dani Weatherholt who returned to LA is different than the 22-year-old who left it, Weatherholt says she lives more in the moment now, as opposed to the goal-centric player she was as a rookie.

“It’s great to have goals, don’t get me wrong, but I think when they consume you, then it affects your play. It affects nearly everything,” she says.

By the time Angel City was scouting for its debut NWSL season, Weatherholt’s career experiences had made into just the type of player the expansion team was looking for in its leaders.

‘She is an angel at Angel City’

Weatherholt didn’t know she was going first overall in the 2022 NWSL expansion draft until Angel City head coach Freya Coombe called her minutes before her name was announced.

She did know that playing for the club would be a possibility. At the end of the 2021 season, NWSL players were asked if they would be interested in representing either of the expansion teams in Los Angeles or San Diego. Weatherholt gave her agent the go-ahead to submit her name.

“I loved my team in Seattle, like loved them,” she says. “But I was like, everyone is going to want to go to California, so if they want me and if it if it lines up, then I would love to go.”

Ahead of the draft, Coombe was drawn to the midfielder’s roots and her desire to fight for her home community. Coombe knew those qualities would be important not only to the culture Angel City wanted to build, but also to Weatherholt’s career.

Now two months into the regular season, Weatherholt is filled with pride for her new club, which has dedicated itself to expanding access to resources both on and off the pitch. With their Angel City Sponsorship Model, in which 10 percent of all sponsorship dollars go to community programs, the club has helped provide thousands of meals, soccer equipment and essentials kits to those in need around L.A.

“It just couldn’t align more with who I am and why I play and why I continue to play,” Weatherholt says.

Weatherholt’s steadiness in possession and her reading of pace and angles at the holding midfield position have been key for Angel City, who return to play Friday in sixth place in the NWSL standings with a 4-4-1 record. The way Weatherholt pushes her teammates to match their opponent’s level demonstrates the deeper understanding of the league that Coombe was looking for when building her roster.

“She’s been a fantastic leader for us,” Coombe says. “A great person to have around, and a key player for us as well.”

Training in L.A. has helped Weatherholt find a new level of freedom in her game. A veteran with ACFC, she’s taken what she learned from her two seasons with OL Reign’s world-class midfielders and helped set the tone.

She’s also regularly able to share her experiences with her family, including her dad ( who had only seen her play live once before she returned to L.A.) and her brother (who has never seen her play professionally). Weatherholt enjoys bringing her spunky, wide-eyed nephew onto the field after matches, and her dad still offers her a Snickers bar and banana before every game.

“Whenever my family comes to watch me play, I always play well because it’s like, you know your family loves you no matter what and they know who you are,” she says. “There’s something special about that and it definitely gives me this buzz.”

Finnerty can’t wait to show up to an Angel City game with the San Clemente girls’ soccer team and a big glittery sign for Weatherholt, just like Weatherholt did years ago for Finnerty’s 5-year-old daughter.

“I admire you so much. You’re not going to stop. You’re going to keep going and doing more and being more for others,” Finnerty once told Weatherholt. “She is an angel at Angel City.”

“It’s hard to find the words because it’s like a full-circle moment,” Weatherholt says. “All the people that supported you, loved you, and then life goes on and then all of a sudden to see that they’re still supporting you, and you get to fight for that community now.”

Jessa Braun is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports covering the NWSL and USWNT. Follow her on Twitter @jessabraun.

Angel City FC selected OL Reign midfielder Dani Weatherholt with the first pick in the 2022 NWSL Expansion Draft on Thursday night.

The midfielder has been with OL Reign since 2020. Before that, she played four seasons for the Orlando Pride, who selected her in the fourth round of the 2016 NWSL College Draft. The 27-year-old plays in the No. 6 position and will provide Angel City with an important defensive presence in the midfield.

Angel City made three other selections after Weatherholt on Thursday, filling out their roster for the club’s debut 2022 season.

After a week or so away from the NWSL Challenge Cup bubble, I have had some time to sit back and reflect on the experience. Firstly, thank you to the NWSL and all the selfless volunteers and staff that worked day-in and day-out to provide all the teams with the appropriate measures to ensure everyone’s safety. I was so happy to see you all honored before the final match, and hope that you were thanked each and every day. Also congratulations to the Houston Dash, as well as all the teams for their hard work and the sacrifices they made to attend this tournament.


When I look back at this tournament, I am met with gratitude and fullness. Although the tournament ultimately did not end the way our squad had envisioned, this experience provided for me in ways I never could have expected.


With this being my first year on OL Reign, I was instantly impressed by the team’s closeness, individual strength, acceptance of differences, and leadership. This team truly has some inspiring women on it and I can genuinely say I learned something from every girl on the roster.

One person in particular who stuck out to me was captain Lu Barnes – who by the way had an unbelievable tournament! Let’s appreciate that for a second. Lu has the world’s biggest heart. She also makes the best vegan pancakes, which we had every gameday morning. She leads with love in all that she does and as a member for all 8 years, she is a big reason why this team has been so successful.


While in the Bubble, Lu, Rosie White and I noticed there was an absurd amount of waste. So together, we worked with some amazing companies to provide the team with reusable water bottles courtesy of Crazy Cap, reusable cutlery courtesy of Albatross Cutlery, and reusable plates courtesy of Eco Lunch Box. This cut back our use of single-use plastic immensely, and it was empowering to see the whole team buy into reducing their waste.


Although it was always an exciting day when we were able to leave the hotel, I do not particularly miss the invasive biweekly COVID testing. You would walk down the long halls of the academy and step into what appeared to be a doctor’s office in a makeshift classroom. You would sit patiently trying to distract yourself before kindly being asked which nostril you prefer. Left side strong side, every time for me. Apparently, I also have a small naval cavity… you learn something new every day.


Rosie graciously volunteered as a tribute to give you a visual of how long these swabs were.

When it came to hotel living, I enjoyed learning about my teammates and playing card games. I’m already missing our little bundles of joy and bright lights: Steph Cox’s two beautiful daughters.


I have nothing but admiration and respect for Steph, who was a fearless leader within our squad, and for her two little girls. From watching ballet recitals, basketball shootouts, pool excursions, and so much more… Steph chased her children around the hotel while putting in 90-minute shifts. Hearing their laughter fill the hallway broke up our monotonous routine and served as a constant reminder to choose joy throughout the journey.


For us, the success of this tournament was about our team’s ability to come together. No amount of PKs will ever disprove that. And if you ask me, we achieved that and so much more.

I left this tournament a better person, and that is all I could have asked for. I gained friendships I will have for a lifetime. I confirmed what a profound impact we can have on one another through our own personal stories.  I learned what it meant to voice your opinion, ask questions, and engage in tough conversations. I learned that the only way to grow is to be brave enough to put yourself out there. And in doing so, more often than not, you enable the people around you to grow as well.

I couldn’t be more grateful to have been surrounded by such an intelligent group of powerful women passionate about making a difference in the lives of many. We left the tournament inspired and committed to making a difference in our local Tacoma community and to putting all of our incredible conversations into action. I will be forever grateful for this unique experience that brought us all together during such a pivotal time in society.

And thank you JWS for giving me the platform to share some of my thoughts!


Hey everyone! My name is Dani Weatherholt and I am a midfielder for the OL Reign of the National Women’s Soccer League. With our league being the first to return, I wanted to provide a different perspective of my experience leading up and throughout the Challenge Cup. Photography has always been a passion of mine, and I hope to provide an inside look of our tournament through my eyes and all the incredible people along the way.


With the State of Washington under strict protocol, our team headed out to Missoula, Montana for a month-long preseason to prepare for the upcoming Challenge Cup. With the quick turnaround, our team wasted no time and went straight into the grind of double-days. However, there was a buzz amongst the group and the dreaded double-days were met with a joyful eagerness and gratitude to be back on the field together doing what we love. Our team held perspective at the root of all that we did, and it showed in our relentless hard work on the field and our unified connection off the field.

On our final day in Montana, my teammate Rosie White and I headed out to Glacier National Park for a last-minute adventure. The National Park did a great job of providing a safe environment and limiting the number of people allowed into the park and on the trails. We knew that the Utah “Village” would be strict to ensure everyone’s safety, so we wanted to get one last breath of fresh air and explore the beautiful National Park.


Side note: I was getting closer and closer to this deer, and Rosie screamed my name sending it running for the woods. So blame Rosie White for not letting me get a closer photo for you all.

Travel Day

Our month-long preseason had gone by in the blink of an eye. We said our goodbyes to the beautiful community of Missoula, one that welcomed us with open arms, and were grateful to be representing another city as we headed into the Challenge Cup. We carpooled to the airport as teams do, but this time was different. We arrived at the airport and were led through a separate gate and instructed to pull directly onto the runway. We all took our turns guessing which airplane was the one we would take (everyone was wrong), and I got in trouble for taking pictures of people’s private planes. With laughter and smiles concealed by our face masks, we smized our way onto our little plane.

A huge thank you to our Club, the NWSL, and the Utah Royals for ensuring this safe method of travel for our team.


Before take-off, there was a combination of nerves and excitement amongst the group. Not sure whether it was because of the small flight, the turbulence, or the fact that Co-Pilot Jess Fishlock was apparently landing our plane. Without fail, a 10/10 landing from the legend, and our team touched down safely in Utah eager to get started.


Thank you for taking the time to read a short snippet of our final days in Montana and our journey to Utah. I hope to use this platform to showcase an inside look of the NWSL Village and share some stories behind the incredible people within it.