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SANDY — Real Salt Lake’s women’s soccer side Utah Royals FC brought one of the international game’s best to the Wasatch Front when it signed U.S. women’s national team co-captain Becky Sauerbrunn as its first player in franchise history.
It added a U.S. teammate to the roster.
Kelley O’Hara will join the National Women’s Soccer League expansion team in Utah in 2018, the Royals announced Friday via club release.
The 29-year-old forward has played for New Jersey-based Sky Blue FC since 2013, but she’ll make the move to the league’s first team in the Mountain time zone along with teammate Taylor Lytle and the No. 25 overall pick in next month’s NWSL college draft. In exchange for the trade, the Royals will send forward Shea Groom, defender Christina Gibbons and the No. 4 overall pick to Sky Blue ahead of the Jan. 18 draft.
"I am excited to start a new adventure playing for an organization that is invested in building a championship club within the NWSL," O’Hara said in a statement from the club. "In my time with the USWNT, playing in Salt Lake has always been a top-notch experience with amazing facilities and a dedicated fan base. I grew up coming to Utah as a kid and I’m looking forward to calling the mountains home."
A former PARADE All-American and MAC Hermann Trophy award winner at Stanford, O’Hara has 105 caps with the women’s national team dating back to 2010, her first full year as a professional. A 24-goal scorer on the U-20 level, O’Hara has two goals while switching between forward and wingback for the Yanks during Women’s World Cup cycles in 2011 and 2015 and the 2012 Olympics.
The 5-foot-5 winger scored her first senior international goal in the U.S. 2-0 win over Germany in the semifinal of the 2015 World Cup, and came on as a substitute in the United States’ 5-2 rout of Japan in the final that clinched the country’s first World Cup title since 1999 and third overall championship.
O’Hara’s pro career goes back to 2010, when she was selected No. 3 overall in the Women’s Professional Soccer college draft by the Bay Area-based FC Gold Pride, and moved to the Boston Breakers after the club folded in November 2010.
A native of Fayetteville, Georgia, O’Hara was set to join the WPS's Atlanta Beat in 2012, but the club folded before the season began.
When NWSL play began, O'Hara signed with Sky Blue FC on Jan. 11, 2013, and has been with the club ever since.
"With the acquisition of Kelley and Taylor, we have brought in two huge assets for our club," Royals head coach Laura Harvey said. "Kelley is a proven international player, who has been a standout player for both the USWNT and the NWSL over recent years. Her talent, work ethic and winning mentality is something I think will be infectious throughout the team."
O’Hara and Lytle become the second and third players in Utah Royals history, joining Sauerbrunn. The trio join the roster of FC Kansas City, which was assigned to the Royals upon ceasing operations but whose players haven’t formally signed with the club at the moment.
Lyle, a 28-year-old midfielder from Las Cruces, New Mexico, joined Sky Blue in 2013 after four standout years at Texas Tech. An all-Big 12 first-team selection beginning her sophomore season, she finished her Red Raider career as the school’s all-time leader with 27 assists.
"In Taylor, we have a player who has been a stalwart for Sky Blue over five seasons; whenever I would coach against her, she would always cause my team problems, so I’m now very glad that we are on the same team," Harvey said. "She is a player I have admired for a while now, and we expect that bringing in someone like Taylor who has such a great attitude for the game will only enhance our roster."