Finding Her Fit: Delanie Sheehan's Journey Through Soccer
Delanie Sheehan starts every game day the same exact way. Wake up, breakfast, wall ball, stretch, shower, and then meet up with the team. While that differs slightly when they are on the road, the core of it stays the same to keep her head focused.
One thing that is not a constant in her game day routine is her coffee order, with Sheehan even saying “I lowkey always switch it up. It’s kind of a game time decision.” But you can always count on her to get something iced and with oat milk.
Although she may not be a household name, for the NWSL fans who are paying attention, she is one to watch. Sheehan has worked her way from the bench to consistently being in the starting lineup.
She has played a key role in the Gotham FC midfield throughout the season, starting 15 of 19 games she’s played. Her teammates have nothing but praise for her as not only a player but also a person.
But, before getting to where she is now, it all started with a rec league.
At four years old, Delanie Sheehan was introduced to the game of soccer. Her parents signed her up for Itty Bitty Indoor League and from the moment she touched a ball she knew it was for her. While there is no definitive moment where it all clicked, the love seemed to always have been there.
“I felt like I always knew that soccer was my sport. It was the sport that I was most interested in. Like, I would never miss soccer for anything else,” said Sheehan.
Sheehan also played softball and basketball during high school, but it always came back to soccer. Growing up people would ask her what she wanted to be when she grew up and the answer was always a professional soccer player.
Sheehan never had a plan B. It was soccer or nothing. That was her entire mentality as she committed to UCLA, entered the NWSL draft, and made her mark at Gotham FC.
As a California native, going to UCLA just made sense for Sheehan. While playing at UCLA, she recorded 15 goals and 18 assists in 86 matches.
During her senior season in 2021, Sheehan earned Pac-12 Midfielder of the Year and First Team All-Pac-12 honors, as well as being named a semifinalist for the 2020-21 Mac Hermann Trophy.
During her time with the Bruins, Sheehan played with fellow NWSL players Vivianna Villacorta, Olivia Athens, and Ashley Sanchez. She also played alongside Chelsea players Mia Fishel and Jessie Fleming. Having a team with that much top talent allowed for immense amounts of growth.
“I felt like I was kind of an underdog, like nobody really knew me and I was going in with a very highly rated class and some very good players,” said Sheehan.
But that did not limit her one bit. One thing about Sheehan is that she is going to take advantage of every opportunity that comes her way. At UCLA, that meant learning from her coaches and teammates to be the best she could be.
On January 13, 2021, Sheehan turned 22. It also happened to be the day of the 2021 NWSL Draft. She recalls not even remembering what pick she was because of the nerves throughout the whole day.
“Sitting there and waiting for your name to be called and not knowing if it will be called is one of the most nerve-wracking things,” said Sheehan.
All those moments of putting in the work, learning, training, and setting her sights on playing professionally came to fruition when Gotham FC, Sky Blue at the time, selected Sheehan 33rd overall. In a league like the NWSL, there is endless opportunity to try out for teams, even if you go undrafted, but the relief Sheehan felt was unmatched.
“I got a call from Gotham and I felt like I couldn't even speak,” Sheehan recalled, “I was just so emotional and overwhelmed.”
During her first season with Gotham, she appeared in five matches, starting two of them. In the 2022 NWSL season, she had nine appearances but it wasn’t until the 2023 season that she grew to become a focal point in the midfield.
Quick Trip to Paris
Sheehan always knew she wanted to go overseas at some point in her career, so when the opportunity arose after her rookie season at Gotham, it was an immediate yes. For a player who is really tactical on the ball, the style of football in France felt like a prime fit.
“It was out of the blue, but when the opportunity came, I didn't even feel like I hesitated,” Sheehan shared, “I was like, of course, I'll go play at Paris FC”
Although she only had six appearances while overseas she was able to learn a lot of skills that she has brought back to the NWSL. Being with Paris FC allowed her to specifically grow her understanding of the game.
Sheehan mentioned being very detail-oriented in her game so being able to have a full view of the game is essential to her success on the pitch.
As someone who is not as fast as some other players, knowing the game, being able to focus on tactics, and the ability to slow the game down has helped her now that she is back stateside.
Finding Her Fit
Even though her role is constantly changing, she takes it all in stride. From playing as a forward to a more attacking midfielder, Sheehan has been able to find her place in the team this season. She credits the staff for always believing in her, which in turn has helped to build her confidence.
Confidence is a huge area of Sheehan’s game that has improved. When she has a ball at her feet there is an ease as she plays. That even shows in training where she “balls out” as teammate Mana Shim recalled.
“I love her as a player and as a person,” said Shim. “I think she’s really smart and technical, she sees the game the way I do. She has a really good heart and loves the game I do”
As a teammate, Sheehan is always putting those around her at a focal point. She comes into every training with good vibes and gives her all into focusing on the smaller details so they can improve.
One thing you can guarantee from Sheehan is that she is always one step ahead. She credits her mental game as her biggest tool in succeeding. She watches film and puts in that extra work to not only understand but be able to execute the full product.
That work has not gone unnoticed by Gotham FC coaching staff who gradually shifted Sheehan into a main piece of the starting eleven.
“Delanie is a good example of a player who continued to work and listen, doing everything she could on and off the pitch to be the best she can be,” said Head Coach Juan Carlos Amorós. “I think we’ve seen how difficult it can be to play against her. She knows how to occupy space and is very good on the ball. She just works extremely hard and is a team player.”
Sheehan takes nothing for granted with each start being another opportunity to do her best for the team. She is the kind of player who will fill in where needed, fulfilling any role asked of her. She strives for the best of herself day in and out. She is the definition of what it means to be a team player.
“There is always room for growth, but it has been fun to build connections and find my role”