Laura Harvey will return to coach OL Reign, the club announced Thursday. Harvey, the franchise’s original leader, will replace Farid Benstiti, who abruptly resigned July 2 hours before a match against the Houston Dash.
Harvey regarded coaching in the NWSL as the “wildest ride” she can’t wait to get back on. That won’t happen until August because she’s serving as an assistant for coach Vlatko Andonovski with the U.S. women’s national soccer team in the Tokyo Summer Games.
Longtime Reign assistant Sam Laity will continue his role as interim head coach and will remain on staff when Harvey arrives.
“I missed the wildness,” Harvey said via videoconference call from her Tokyo hotel room where it was a thunderous Friday morning. “It actually suits me a little bit. Being around Vlatko (a former Reign coach) and all the guys that have been in the league during the period with U.S. Soccer, we speak about it all the time, too. We were never away from it. Our job included watching every single game. Analyzing players, analyzing what teams were doing. That was part of the job, so I never really left.”
Harvey, 41, built a reputation as a player’s coach when she signed with the Reign in 2013. When Harvey voluntarily left the position in 2017, she compiled a 51-33-26 record for NWSL regular season matches, coached the Reign to two league championship games and won the NWSL Shield in 2014 and 2015. Harvey was also named Coach of the Year twice.
But Harvey’s uncertainty about what she wanted for her future prompted her departure. She ultimately took a head coaching position with the now relocated Utah Royals (2018-19) and was put in charge of U.S. Soccer’s women’s U-20 team in January 2020.
The England native said the COVID-19 pandemic forced her to be more introspective. Harvey decided to deepen her knowledge of the her sport and became the second woman to receive her U.S. Soccer Pro License, completing the course in 2020.
“When I took this role with U.S. Soccer, I was in a position where I really wanted to see what international soccer was like, again,” said Harvey, who led the U-20s through a seven-game unbeaten run to win the title at the 2020 CONCACAF Women’s U-20 Championship. “I’ve been a head coach in the professional game for 14 years, and one of the things you don’t appreciate when you are a head coach for that long is how sort of stuck in your ways you are a little bit. It’s fine to be that way, but for me, personally, taking a step back … and being able to learn from everybody around me has been a huge asset.”
Reign CEO Bill Predmore, who owned the club before selling a majority stake to OL Groupe in 2019, hopes there’s a healing in Harvey’s return. The club’s championship-match losses still haunt him, and Harvey agrees the vision of being the world’s best women’s soccer club still needs to materialize.
Predmore said there were six candidates the club considered but in detailing what he wanted for the Reign’s future, Harvey was the person who had the skills and familiarity to match.
“Maybe on our very first phone call back in 2012, I said something to the effect of wanting to build the best women’s club in the world,” Predmore said Thursday during the videoconference call. “In ’14 and ’15, we got achingly close to that. The team was brilliant, but we just didn’t quite take that last step.
“There’s a hurt there that has never gone away. I felt like the only way to make it go away is to win it, and nothing for me would be better than win it with Harv. We have to earn it, and we’re a long ways from it right at this second. But it was the goal then, and it’s the goal today.”
There are multiple players on the current Reign roster who shared in that pain like veteran defender Lu Barnes and midfielder Jess Fishlock, who were among Harvey’s initial acquisitions as the club’s first general manager. USWNT star Megan Rapinoe is another, the striker joining club and country teammate Rose Lavelle in being told by Harvey of the hiring first.
Predmore has loaded the roster with international talent that seemingly will favor Harvey’s coaching style. Benstiti’s brief run with the roster led the Reign (3-5-1) to ninth place in the 10-team NWSL standings.
The Bold has four matches until Harvey’s expected arrival, beginning with a road game Sunday against the Chicago Red Stars (4-4-2). Part of what makes the NWSL wild, according to Harvey, is the parity.
The Reign could easily be atop the table for her arrival.
“The day-to-day environment of being around a team is probably what I missed the most, so that’s probably what I’m most excited about,” Harvey said. “Waking up every day and going out to the field and doing what I truly love to do, which is coaching soccer and coaching players.”