Kelley O’Hara leaves Spirit, signs with Gotham as a free agent

Washington defender Kelley O’Hara, right, celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during the second half of the NWSL Championship soccer match against Chicago Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021, in Louisville, Kentucky. (AP Photo/Jeff Dean)

Defender Kelley O’Hara, whose game-winning goal helped the Washington Spirit capture its first National Women’s Soccer League Championship in 2021, is leaving the club and joining NJ/NY Gotham as a free agent.

O’Hara, 34, announced the deal at a Men in Blazers podcast event in New York City Tuesday night. The defender, who joined the Spirit in 2021, had become a part of the league’s first-ever free agent class once her contract expired at the end of the 2022 season. O’Hara spent five seasons with the New Jersey-based franchise between 2013-2017.

“This is f**king awesome; I’m stoked,” O’Hara said at the event. “I’m so excited to be back in New York City with these people and this team. Yeah, I’m back baby.”

The U.S. women’s national team defender made 24 appearances in a Spirit uniform, becoming a fan favorite while becoming a veteran leader in Washington’s back line.

She scored once during her time in Washington, a header goal off a Trinity Rodman cross in 97th minute of the 2021 NWSL Championship, which secured the franchise’s first title.

In a statement to WTOP, Spirit owner Michele Kang called O’Hara “a force on and off the field and is beloved by fans across the world.”

“She made a lasting impact on the Spirit and in the District community; Our entire organization is grateful to her and I personally wish her the best,” Kang said.

“We can’t say enough about Kelley,” club president Mark Krikorian said in a statement. “The talent, work ethic and experience she brought to this club were undoubtedly key in helping the Spirit earn its first league title in 2021. She will forever be a member of DC sports history and we wish her all the best in the future of her career.”

O’Hara is one of eight confirmed departures Washington announced on Tuesday. Goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart, defender Amber Brooks and midfielder Tori Huster are also free agents.

José Umaña

José Umaña is a digital editor for WTOP. He’s been working as a journalist for almost a decade, covering local news, education and sports. His work has appeared in The Prince George’s Sentinel, The Montgomery Sentinel, Orlando Sentinel, PressBox and The Diamondback.

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