NWSL: Kealia Ohai traded to Chicago Red Stars, Houston gets Katie Naughton

Kealia Ohai NWSL
ORLANDO, FL — JUNE 27: Houston Dash forward Kealia Ohai (7) beats Orlando Pride defender Poliana (19) during the NWSL soccer match between the Orlando Pride and the Houston Dash on June 27th, 2018 at Orlando City Stadium in Orlando, FL. (Photo by Andrew Bershaw/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images).

Chicago, Illinois — The Chicago Red Stars have acquired Kealia Ohai, via a trade with the Houston Dash. The news was first reported by John D. Halloran and The Equalizer. Moments later, the teams each confirmed the news.

Ohai was seemingly the face of the franchise for Houston. Drafted in 2014, Ohai has spent her entire club career with the Dash. In her first two seasons, Ohai scored eight goals and provided two assists. Her third season was a standout, as she scored 11 goals in 10 games.

However, Ohai suffered an injury in 2017, which propelled her to the sideline. In 2018, she scored five goals. This past season, Ohai appeared in 23 matches, totaling two goals. Ohai scored against Sky Blue FC and the Orlando Pride. Red Stars head coach Rory Dames said any team would jump at the opportunity to sign Ohai.

“She has proven her ability to score at this level and we are excited to get her integrated into our group,” Dames said. “We look forward to having her here in Chicago.”

Ohai has international experience as well, featuring three times for the U.S. Women’s National Team. She was recently part of Vlatko Andonovski’s squad for the December Identification Camp.

Ohai gave a statement on leaving the Dash.

“I want to thank the entire Houston organization and the wonderful fans for my last six years as a Dash player,” she said. “I have created lasting friendships and Houston will always be my home. I’m excited for a new opportunity with Chicago and to become the best player I can be.”

Naughton to Houston and Draft Picks

The trade also involves Katie Naughton, a defender from Chicago. Houston acquired Naughton, who is a native of Elk Grove Village, Illinois, which is under an hour from Chicago. Naughton appeared in 24 matches for the Red Stars and took the starting role in the NWSL Championship match with an injury to Tierna Davidson. She was selected by the Red Stars in the 2016 NWSL College Draft and scored one goal in her NWSL career.

“Katie has done everything we’ve asked of her and we can’t thank her enough for her time here,” Dames said. “She was a great teammate and the ultimate professional, we wish her the best of luck in Houston.”

“We are delighted to add Katie to the squad. She brings a lot of quality and playoff experience,” James Clarkson, Houston Dash head coach, said. “She will strengthen the team and help us continue to improve.” 

The deal also involved a draft pick. The Dash received the No. 18 overall picks in this year’s NWSL College Draft, which will take place next Thursday.

Erika Tymrak retires, Utah makes signing

Also in NWSL news, Erika Tymrak announced her retirement from professional soccer. Tymrak was a member of the Utah Royals FC for the last two seasons. She was a member of the FC Kansas City team that won two NWSL Championship titles under Andonovski.

Tymrak, a native of Detroit, Michigan, made 16 appearances and totaled 531 minutes in 2019. The midfielder recorded four starts and provided one assist last season.

“Erika was one of 32 rookies selected in the inaugural 2013 NWSL College Draft and today is one of only nine remaining. For seven years she has given her all for her clubs, Utah Royals FC included, and we want to thank her for the time she spent with us and wish her luck in her next chapter,” Stephanie Lee, Royals general manager, said.

Utah answered back with a signing of their own, bringing Taylor Leach on board. The signing, according to Lee, is in response to last year’s retirement of Sam Johnson.

“After Sam Johnson’s retirement last season, we’ve been on the lookout for an additional center back that could bring some knowledge, experience and grit to our back line,” Lee said. “We were excited to find Taylor, and that she’s agreed to join Utah Royals FC.”

The 27-year-old featured for the Kopparbergs/Göteborg FC for about three years before coming to the United States. She scored six goals and provided three assists in her 86 appearances in Sweden. Before joining Göteborg, Leach spent one year with Östersunds DFF in Sweden’s second division.

Her journey to Europe began with Sunnanå SK in 2016, where she featured in 13 matches. Prior to flying to Europe, Leach featured collegiately at the University of South Carolina, where she totaled 86 appearances.

In previous news, the Royals announced that they have parted ways with head coach Laura Harvey. Read about Harvey’s departure at Last Word on Soccer.

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