Ten days before the NWSL Draft, the Red Stars announced a deal sending defender Katie Naughton and the 18th overall pick to the Houston Dash for forward Kealia Ohai.
The Red Stars acquired the ninth and 18th overall picks from the North Carolina Courage earlier Monday for the sixth pick in the draft.
“It’s important to note Kealia asked to be moved from Houston and wanted to come to Chicago,” Red Stars coach Rory Dames said. “In any trade, that’s important. You always want players who want to come and be on your team.”
Ohai was vocal on social media about needing a new environment to reach her full potential, and Chicago was where she felt that was possible.
“I am just so excited to get there and get started,” Ohai said.
Ohai had a breakout season in 2016, scoring a career-best 11 goals for the Dash and tying for the league’s Golden Boot. She also was named to the 2016 NWSL Best XI.
After a sprained anterior cruciate ligament and a torn meniscus in her left knee sidelined her for most of the 2017 season, Ohai has struggled to recapture her 2016 form.
She returned in 2018 and had five goals and four assists in 19 games. Last season, she had two goals and one assist in 23 games.
“She’ll be the first one to tell you that she didn’t meet her own standards and expectations last year,” Dames said. “But it’ll be on everybody to get her back to that form and back to that level and then go beyond it.”
Dames has been clear that the 2020 Red Stars will look nothing like last season’s NWSL finalists. For starters, 2019 league MVP Sam Kerr is gone.
While Ohai is a talented addition, she won’t replace Kerr’s production.
“Obviously, it will have to be a group effort to create more chances. Everybody will have to do their part,” Dames said. “But you don’t replace Sam Kerr, just like you don’t replace Michael Jordan.”