The biggest splash came this week with the signing of Fayetteville native Kelley O’Hara, a versatile forward/midfielder who has spent time playing for the U.S. women’s national team. Signing with the Beat gave the 2010 Women’s Professional Soccer All-Star the opportunity to place closer to home and closer to her family.
“I think it was actually a big factor for me,” said O’Hara, who attended Starr’s Mill High School before moving on to Stanford. “Playing in a place for six months, then coming back to California, my whole family lives (in Fayetteville), so I want to be around them. I’ve enjoyed all the places that I’ve been. … Nothing was terrible, but I just want to play close to my family if the opportunity presents itself.”
O’Hara played 13 games for the Boston Breakers last season, starting 11 and finishing with four goals and an assist. Although O’Hara has spent much of her WPS career in the midfield, she has played at forward and as an outside back on defense
In Beat coach James Galanis’ system, which preaches versatility, O’Hara said she would play wherever she was needed.
“I’m probably most comfortable up top, but I’m pretty comfortable in most places,” she said. “I feel like I can manage playing most anywhere you put me. I enjoy playing up top, but I really enjoy playing outside mid and at outside back.”
Before her time with Boston, O’Hara played for FC Gold Pride in 2010, totaling six goals and four assists, which was second among WPS rookies.
In addition to the signing of O’Hara, the Beat also brought back defender Katherine Reynolds and midfielder Angela Salem and came to terms with midfielder Lauren Fowlkes.
Reynolds earned her way into the starting lineup last season after coming to the Beat from Philadelphia.
“I’m thankful that James (Galanis) wanted me to come back to play for him,” she said. “It’s going to be competitive for playing time, and I hope to earn more playing for this next season.”
Reynolds started all 18 games last season, and was involved more with corralling opposing forwards than moving forward in the offense.
Salem tried out with the team in the preseason, made the cut and eventually played in 11 games, starting nine. She didn’t record a goal or an assist last year, but two months during the offseason playing for Aland United, a Finnish club team, to gain more experience.
“Playing overseas was always something I wanted to do,” Salem said. “Playing in games gets more experience, so I signed with an agent to get me overseas, and he talked to me about this team because they were looking for center midfielder.”
It also offered Salem security in case WPS was unable to ensure its viability to compete in 2012.
“If the league folded, then I would plan on (staying in Europe), but my preference is to play in the States in the highest league,” Salem said. “My personal preference is to play in this league as long as I can. While it’s around, you have to take advantage of it.”
Fowlkes was a first-round draft pick of Philadelphia out of Notre Dame, though she did not see any game time last season.