(Image courtesy of OL Reign twitter)
After parting ways with Farid Benstiti at the beginning of the month, OL Reign have announced the appointment of Laura Harvey for a second stint as Head Coach.
“I am incredibly excited to welcome Laura back to the Reign,” said OL Reign CEO Bill Predmore in a statement. “When she departed in 2017, I said she would always remain a part of our family—today’s announcement is the realization of my objective to someday bring her back home to our club.”
Harvey is intimately familiar with the Tacoma-based club, having spent four seasons in charge when the club was known as Seattle Reign FC. Harvey led the Reign to several milestones including consecutive NWSL Shields and NWSL Championship game appearances in 2014 and 2015. Harvey became the NWSL’s first coach to reach 100 matches, managing 51 wins, 33 losses and 26 draws over 110 regular-season matches. Since leaving the Reign in 2017, Harvey took charge of Utah Royals FC for the 2018 and 2019 seasons, and has been with US Soccer since January 2020 as Under-20 Women’s National Team head coach and, due to the covid-related cancellation of the FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup, an assistant on the senior team staff under fellow Reign head coaching alum Vlatko Andonovski.
“Being in US Soccer, the greatest part about that is, the players that you get to work with,” said Harvey in her introductory press conference. “From a U-20 perspective, seeing the bright future that this country has was eye opening for me. And then secondly, I think being surrounded by coaches of the level that I’ve been around here, and not being at the forefront of that. Being able to learn from everybody around me, whether it be Tracey Kevins who does the U-17s,whether it be Anthony Hudson on the boys side, and all the way up to Vlatko and Greg (Berhalter, USMNT coach), I think that’s been a huge asset for me.”
While the path Harvey has taken over the last two years has been away from the NWSL, it was always on Harvey’s mind to return to the league.
“I always described the NWSL as a place where it’s the wildest ride you will ever go on as a coach, but it’s so rewarding,” Harvey said. “It’s so rewarding being in this league when you know that you’re getting it right. I think on the field it’s rewarding, but also off it–like to see where the league is now compared to 2013, it’s like night and day and I think that the trajectory is only going up.
“Obviously being around Vlatko and all the guys that have been involved in the league during the period with US Soccer, we speak about it all the time, too. We were never away from it. Our job still included watching every single game, analyzing players, analyzing what teams were doing. That was part of the job, so I never really left, that’s how I look at it.”
For Harvey as well as Predmore, the second stint comes with some unfinished business.
“When Laura left in 2017, it felt for me, I think for her as well, that we didn’t quite accomplish what we set out to accomplish at the outset…wanting to build the best women’s club in the world,” said Predmore. “I think in ‘14 and ‘15 we got, like, achingly close to that. The team was brilliant, but we just didn’t quite take that last step, and I think for me and for Harves … I’ll just say there’s a hurt there. And that has never gone away and I felt like the only way to make it go away is to win it, and I think nothing for me would be better than to win it with Harves.”
Harvey’s reunion with the Reign comes as the club is going through something of a transition. While many of the same pieces are in place–Harvey, Predmore and current Interim Head Coach Sam Laity, who will be continuing his role as assistant under Harvey, have worked together since the club’s founding in 2013–the first years of the Olympique Lyon’s ownership and under previous coach Farid Benstiti have come with a bit of turmoil. Harvey relishes the opportunity to carry the club into a new era, calling it a “very special place.”
“I think what’s special about it is that everyone cares about the same thing. And the thing that everyone cares about is making this club and this team be the best version of what it can be on the field and off it every single day,” said Harvey. “And that’s what I believe in. And I think if you do that, then you will end up getting to your accomplishment and your goal, which is what [Predmore] wants that he said before, being the best club in the world.
“I think that all the steps that happen every day, always have that mindset in the back of it, of how can we be the best in the world … And when you’re driving on that train, that’s what players buy into. That’s why players want to play for this team. That’s why staff want to be part of it, it’s why someone like Sam (Laity) has been here for nine years. It’s why I want to come back. All those little things are the reason why.”
While Harvey, Predmore and the Lyon, France-based ownership have lofty goals for the team moving forward, the task at hand will be to navigate the team out of their current predicament near the basement of the league table. Laity, who has managed the team through one win and one loss as the stand-in, will coach the team through the next four games as Harvey finishes her US Soccer tenure with the Women’s National Team at the Tokyo Olympics. The club’s next match comes Sunday against Chicago Red Stars, and after a 2-0 win last weekend against Kansas City, three points could vault the Reign from ninth place to somewhere nearer to playoff contention.
“If the next four games go really well, we could be in a very different position in the standings as we are right now,” said Harvey. “So every single game matters. And we have to prepare like that’s the most important game right now because it is. The most important game right now is Chicago.”
OL Reign will face off against the Chicago Red Stars at Chicago’s SeatGeek Stadium on Sunday, July 18 at 6pm ET. The match will be broadcast on Paramount+.
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