On Friday afternoon, Sky Blue FC announced that it had traded United States women’s national team defender Kelley O’Hara and midfielder Taylor Lytle to the newest National Women’s Soccer League club, Utah Royals FC.
In return, Sky Blue acquired forward Shea Groom and defender Christina Gibbons from the Royals. A pair of 2018 draft picks were also included in the exchange, with Sky Blue acquiring the No. 4 overall pick while sending the No. 25 pick to Utah.
“On behalf of everyone here at Sky Blue FC, we want to thank Kelley and Taylor for all they have done over the past five seasons,” Sky Blue FC President and General Manager Tony Novo said in the team’s official statement.
“They made major contributions to our club, both on and off the field, and they played significant roles in helping to develop professional women’s soccer here in New Jersey. We truly want to wish them all the best as they begin their new chapter in Utah.”
O’Hara and Lytle were the last players remaining from Sky Blue’s inaugural NWSL roster in 2013. Despite ending her Sky Blue career as a defender, O’Hara sits behind only Sam Kerr in career goals for the club with 15 and leads the team with 18 career assists. She was a staple in Sky Blue’s starting lineup, and her versatility made her a box-to-box player who was equally dangerous on either side of the ball. With the USWNT O’Hara has earned over 100 caps and won the 2015 World Cup and 2012 Olympic gold medal.
Lytle has spent her entire professional career with Sky Blue, being signed as a discovery player ahead of the 2013 season. In her five seasons in New Jersey, the Las Cruces, New Mexico native saw her role change from super-sub to regular starter in the midfield. She leaves New Jersey with five goals and 11 assists.
Although Sky Blue lost O’Hara and Lytle, they gained two solid players in return. Both Groom and Gibbons saw regular time on the field with FC Kansas City last season before having their rights granted to URFC after the league folded FCKC.
“Shea and Christina are two exceptional players, and we cannot wait to have them both playing with us this season,” Novo said.
Groom, 24, was selected by FCKC as the No. 12 overall pick in the 2015 draft and helped the club earn its second consecutive NWSL title that year. In her three seasons with the club, she tallied 17 goals and eight assists and was one of the top two scorers for the Blue in each of the past two seasons.
The No. 5 overall draft pick in the 2017 draft, Gibbons immediately made her presence felt in Kansas City, starting in 23 of 24 matches played and totaling 2083 minutes, the most of any field player on the FCKC roster. The defender-turned-midfielder finished the season with a goal—scored against Sky Blue in the club’s 3-2 comeback win over FCKC on July 7—and three assists.
With the acquisition of the No. 4 overall draft pick, Sky Blue now holds two first round draft picks and will select back-to-back with the fourth and fifth overall picks. They also hold a second round (No. 15 overall) and fourth round (No. 35 overall) pick.