Kelley O’Hara had a phenomenal 2019. A starter in the World Cup winning U.S. National Team, O’Hara was named to the 2019 FIFPro Women’s World XI, selected as one of the world’s top defenders, joining Julie Ertz of the Chicago Red Stars, Rose Lavelle of the Washington Spirit, Alex Morgan of the Orlando Pride and Megan Rapinoe of Reign FC in representing America on the World XI. During the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, O’Hara started six of the seven matches and recorded two assists.
But all of her recognition and success this year was on the international stage. For club, her contributions fail in comparison to her contributions for the national team. Of course, it is to no fault her own. O’Hara’s lack of play for Utah Royals FC was due to an ankle injury, one that could have caused her to miss the World Cup. She recovered in time for France, only to re-injure it again during an Victory Tour exhibition game in Pasadena.
Between an injury and national team duty, O’Hara made four appearances for Utah, two in April on limited time as she came back from injury, playing a total of 62 minutes before departing for the World Cup, and two in July after returning healthy from the World Cup, playing the full 90 minutes in both games. In these four games, O’Hara completed 74.6% of her passes & 83.3% of her tackles.
Without a doubt, O’Hara is an impact player, and head coach Laura Harvey had to improvise her game plans without her star outside back for the majority of the season. To compensate, she converted Mallory Weber to fill the role, and though Weber filled the role admirably, O’Hara was still missed.
As a world-class player, O’Hara offers tenacity, speed up and down the flank, experience, energy, and she is not afraid to stand in the way of the NWSL’s most dangerous attackers. O’Hara’s strengths, however, have yet to be fully seen at Utah because she has yet to play a full season. In 2018, she made 8 appearances for 517 minutes, bringing her combined appearances for Utah at 12 in 48 games.
In her upcoming third season with the club, Utah needs a healthy Kelley O’Hara. The Tokyo Olympics will require extended national team duty that will take her away from Salt Lake City, and Utah will need to adapt without her again. But if she has an injury-free year, O’Hara is sure to provide the piece Utah has been missing in speed down the flanks to service Christen Press and Amy Rodriguez better.