The Chicago Red Stars have made two trades today in a successful effort to attain former-USWNT forward Kealia Ohai from the Houston Dash on Tuesday. The Red Stars started the day by trading the sixth-overall pick in the upcoming 2020 NWSL College Draft to the North Carolina Courage in exchange for the ninth and eighteenth picks. On its face, the trade seemed strange, but its intent became clear later in the day.
Early in the afternoon, the two teams announced that Ohai would be heading to Chicago in exchange for defender Katie Naughton and the second-round pick that they acquired from the Courage. Ohai was a former USWNT prospect who scored just seconds into her first appearance in October of 2016, but an ACL injury during the 2017 NWSL season took her out of the picture. She never regained her form, and the rotating carousel of coaches in Houston hasn't helped her development. At 27, Ohai should still have plenty of quality play left in her career, and Chicago head coach Rory Dames clearly thinks he has what it takes to inspire Ohai to her former glory.
In return, the Dash were able to unload a relatively unproductive player for a hard-working defender. Houston struggled offensively and defensively in 2019 as they continued to languish at the bottom of the league table. Naughton should be a solid role player for Houston head coach James Clarkson in his second season with the team.
For Houston, this move is a wash. Ohai was not productive offensively for the team, but Naughton isn't going to change the deep-rooted issues with the team. For Chicago, this move is a relatively inexpensive attempt to fill the gaping hole left in their lineup after superstar forward Sam Kerr left for a big contract with Chelsea in England's WSL. It's unlikely that Ohai can come anywhere close to the production that Kerr and former-Chicago forward Christen Press achieved in the Windy City, and the team truly struggled without Kerr in the lineup during the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup. Luckily for the Red Stars, they still hold the 4th, 5th, 8th, and 9th picks in the first round of the draft on January 16th. Houston does not have any picks in the first round this year.