Kelley O’Hara is Sky Blue FC’s second all-time leading goal-scorer. (Jeffrey Auger Photo)
In a blockbuster trade, Sky Blue FC Friday acquired forward Shea Groom, defender Christina Gibbons and fourth overall selection in the 2018 NWSL College Draft from Utah Royals FC for U.S. international defender Kelley O’Hara, midfielder Taylor Lytle and the 25th pick in the draft.
“I am very excited about having both Groom and Gibbons join our club and believe they will fill a distinct need for our team,” Sky Blue FC head coach Denise Reddy said. “Groom has an incredible attacking presence and can be a difference maker, especially in the final third. Gibbons has the ability to make a major impact at multiple positions on the field.”
Groom, 24, was a two-time National Soccer Coaches Association of America All-American at Texas A&M after registering 41 goals and 25 assists. She was selected as the 12th pick in the 2015 draft by FC Kansas City, helping the team to the National Women’s Soccer League championship that year behind a four-goal and two-assist rookie season.
In 2016, Groom finished fifth in the league with a team-leading eight goals and received NWSL Second XI honors. This past season, the Missouri recorded a team-high five assists and finished second with five goals. Groom represented the U.S. Under-23 women’s national team in the 2015 La Manga Tournament in Spain.
Gibbons, 22, was the fifth overall selection of FC Kansas City in the 2017 draft after a standout career at Duke University. She started in 87 of the 88 matches she appeared, earning NSCAA All-America honors twice and All-Atlantic Coast Conference first team accolades three times. During her rookie season in Kansas City, Gibbons started 23 of 24 games and played 2,083 minutes, the most of any field player on the team. She also registered a goal and added three assists. The Cincinnati, Ohio, native represented the U.S. on the U-20 and U-23 stage.
She is playing in Australia for Melbourne Victory of the Westfield W-League, but she will join Sky Blue FC prior to the 2018 NWSL season.
“Shea and Christina are two exceptional players, and we cannot wait to have them both playing with us this season,” Sky Blue FC president and general manager Tony Novo said. “On behalf of everyone here at Sky Blue FC, we also want to thank Kelley and Taylor for all they have done over the past five seasons. 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 two of the original members of Sky Blue FC from when the NWSL kicked off in 2013. O’Hara leaves New Jersey as the team’s second all-time scorer with 15 goals over five seasons, while tallying a team- record 18 assists. She has more than 100 caps for the U.S. national team, helping her country to the 2012 Olympic gold medal and 2015 Women’s World Cup crown.
Lytle has played for Sky Blue FC for her entire professional career, registering five goals and 11 assists in five seasons.
By acquiring the fourth selection in draft, which will be held in Philadelphia Jan. 18, Sky Blue FC has two first-round picks and will select back-to-back at Nos. 4 and 5. The team’s final two selections will come in the second round (15th overall) and fourth round (35th overall).
The former FC Kansas City players were assigned to Utah after the club entered the NWSL in November.