This wasn’t part of Laura Harvey’s plan, though to be fair, there wasn’t really a plan in general.
“If anyone really knows me, I wouldn’t say I have a master plan, honestly,” she said.
Speaking to media members for the first time since being officially named the new head coach of OL Reign on July 15, Harvey, 41, is returning for a second stint with the club. And while it may not have been in her plans to return, she said she simply couldn’t refuse the offer to return to a team and league where she first found success.
“I never believed I’d miss the league as much as I did,” she said. “And I truly did miss it, I missed everything about it in regards to coaching players every day, working with staff every day, the craziness of the league, the games are so nuts and amazing, and the fact that there’s so much parity across the league that everything is important, every game is as important as the next, I truly missed that.”
Harvey most recently served as an assistant coach on the staff of U.S. women’s national team coach and former Reign coach Vlatko Andonovski, helping the group earn a bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics.
However, it was during her first spell with the Reign when Harvey first built up her coaching resume. Hired as the first coach of the franchise in 2013, she led the team to two NWSL Shields in 2014 and 2015, as well as two championship games. Harvey was awarded coach of the year twice, and by the time she voluntarily resigned in 2017, she had compiled a record of 55-33-26.
After her resignation, Harvey spent a year as coach of Utah Royals FC before taking a position with U.S. Soccer leading the U-20 national team in January 2020. She now takes over for former coach Farid Benstiti, who resigned just two hours before the team’s loss to the Houston Dash on July 2. Harvey believes her experiences since leaving the Reign have helped her grow, and added some consistency and steadiness to her coaching repertoire.
“I’m older and hopefully wiser,” she said. “You just learn from your experiences. When I was here last time, obviously we had such ups and downs in this club — super lows and really big highs.”
Harvey’s steady hand will be important for a team that has emerged from the coaching transition in a better state than when it started. Since Benstiti’s resignation, interim coach Sam Laity, who will stay on as an assistant for Harvey, led the Reign to a 4-2-0 record, including the recent 5-1 drubbing of playoff rival Houston in its most recent outing, and Harvey was quick to credit Laity for his work righting the direction of the team.
“ (Laity)’s done such a fantastic job of just giving them the reins to go and play and go play what you see,” she said. “But let’s be organized when we don’t have the ball and be difficult to break down, and I think we just have to continue on that path.”
OL Reign has won its past three games, and four of its past five, all without Olympians Megan Rapinoe, Rose Lavelle, Quinn, Angelina and Jimena Lopez. How Harvey chooses to reintegrate them into one of the most in-form sides in the NWSL will be one of her first major challenges.
Squeezing her offensive talent into the starting lineup will likely be her most difficult job. Despite the return of well-known stars, Reign’s attack has been on fire recently. Center forward Bethany Balcer, recently returned from injury, has three goals in her past two starts and is in contention for the golden boot. Eugenie Le Sommer has also found her scoring boots recently, hitting three in her past two games, and Sofia Huerta was on target as well in the Reign’s destruction of the Dash.
Already, Laity was forced to leave out winger Tziarra King in the team’s most recent match, despite her winning the NWSL player of the week two weeks earlier against Orlando on July 24.
“It’s just fact and reality that if we can show the offensive talent that we showed last week and have been showing over the last couple of weeks, and we can continue to be difficult to break down, then you become a team that’s really hard to play against,” she said.
No matter what happens with the team, Harvey is confident the team will continue to build its chemistry and maintain its good run of form. And she’s here to help them continue climbing the table in a league where only nine points separate the Reign, in the last playoff spot, from the top of the table, rivals Portland Thorns.
Harvey’s first game in charge will be Saturday when the Reign takes on Kansas City on the road. Kickoff is scheduled for 5 p.m.