“Kelley adds world-class quality to our current squad and is a fantastic addition to our young team,” Spirit Coach Richie Burke said. “More importantly, we’ve added another player who has a winning mentality, and someone who will contribute enormously to our team environment.”
The deal fulfilled O’Hara’s wish to play in the Washington area, where she has a home. The teams engaged in trade talks over the summer, but Utah’s request for one of the Spirit’s young starters — defender Tegan McGrady, 23, or forward Ashley Hatch, 25 — was too steep.
“It has always been a dream of mine to be able to play in the city I call home,” O’Hara said. “This is a young and exciting team with lots of potential and I am looking forward to providing veteran experience to the squad.”
Because of injuries and national team commitments, O’Hara, 32, appeared in just 14 matches over three seasons with Utah. This year, she played just two matches in the Challenge Cup in greater Salt Lake City in the summer and did not play in the seven-week fall series. Previously, O’Hara played five seasons with New Jersey-based Sky Blue FC.
“To the [Utah] fans, I know that my time on the field in Utah did not meet a lot of people’s expectations, including my own," O’Hara said. “Please know that I gave all I had to the Royals during my three years and to those that stuck by me and the team through the good and the bad, I am forever grateful.”
The Georgia-born Stanford graduate will provide experience and leadership to a Washington squad built around a young nucleus, including national team prospect Andi Sullivan.
O’Hara has been with the national team for more than 10 years, making 132 appearances, including six starts at right back during the 2019 World Cup in France. She is seventh among active U.S. players in international appearances.
At the 2011 and 2015 tournaments, O’Hara was primarily a substitute. She was a starter on the 2012 squad that won the Olympic gold medal in London.
A forward in her early years, O’Hara is also adept in an advanced position on the flanks. On Friday, she played 76 minutes in the Americans’ 2-0 victory at the Netherlands, a rematch of the 2019 World Cup final. This year, O’Hara appeared in seven of the nine U.S. matches, starting five.
The trade comes three months after Lavelle decided to continue her career overseas. In anticipation of her signing with Manchester City, the Spirit dealt her National Women’s Soccer League rights to OL Reign of Tacoma, Wash., for a 2022 first-round draft pick and at least $100,000 in allocation money.
Lavelle’s departure left Washington without a U.S. World Cup player on the roster. The Spirit does have several players in the national team pool, including Hatch, Sullivan, goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe and forward Ashley Sanchez.
In a letter to fans this month, Spirit owner Steve Baldwin said the team will “compete to sign the best available international players in the world” ahead of the 2021 season. Late Tuesday, the team announced the acquisition of Japanese World Cup forward Saori Takarada, 20.
The team also owns the No. 2 and No. 9 picks in the NWSL draft Jan. 13.
On Monday, the team re-signed co-captain Tori Huster, 31, to a two-year contract.
The NWSL plans to open training camp Feb. 1 and begin competition in mid-April with another Challenge Cup. It would take place in multiple bubble environments, in local markets or some combination of the two.
The regular season is slated to start in mid-May. After years at Maryland SoccerPlex in Montgomery County, the Spirit will play all home games at Audi Field in Washington and Segra Field in Leesburg.
More soccer from The Post: