The news keeps getting better for supporters of Utah Royals FC.
The club announced yesterday that they had acquired Kelley O’Hara and Taylor Lytle (pronounced LIGHT-el), in exchange for Shea Groom and Christina Gibbons. In doing this, the team is putting together a solid defense for its first season in 2018. Having O’Hara and her UWSNT teammate Becky Sauerbrunn holding down the right side of the back line, while presumably having Yael Averbuch and Becca Moros on the left, will give the team a good base with which to unleash the midfield and forwards into the attacking, possession-oriented style that coach Laura Harvey and general manager Craig Waibel are envisioning.
O’Hara has the additional benefit of being a converted midfielder who has played at fullback since 2012 after Ali Krieger sustained an injury in the lead up to the London Summer Olympics. Whether the Royals keep her as a dangerous wingback, or find a different option there and let her return to the attack, as the Sky Blue FC player with the second most goals and most assists in team history she’s a proven contributor to helping the scoreline for any team she plays for.
Lytle has also played in all five NWSL seasons for Sky Blue FC, and played one season for Pali Blues in 2012, which was the same W-League team that O’Hara played a season for in 2009. Taylor was known as a “super sub” for SBFC during her first seasons, but played her way into a starting role in the midfield. She has good pace, and handles the ball well with her feet, and is a good passer who can spring the forwards in on goal. She also has good chemistry with O’Hara that makes the right side of the pitch a dangerous attacking option for the Royals.
In moving Groom and Gibbons, the Royals are trading youth for veteran players in the sweet spot of their careers. There are a lot of questions for the team at the forward position now, with the thought of possibly having to trade Sydney Leroux and the unknown of whether Amy Rodriguez will make the move to Utah and recover from her ACL injury sustained just minutes after she scored in FC Kansas’ first game of 2017.
Barring any additional moves, the Royals are without a first round pick in the 2018 NWSL College Draft in January, and they’d be unlikely to find an immediate solution for the attack in the later rounds. That may mean that they do plan to let O’Hara loose on the wings and let her show how dangerous she can be. After all, if she can score goals like this one from the right back spot, it could be a lot of fun for the Rio Tinto crowds to see it happen more often as an attacking player.