This Saturday, when Seattle Reign FC kicks off against the Boston Breakers at Memorial Stadium, the team hopes to celebrate a win alongside another important milestone: head coach Laura Harvey’s 100th NWSL regular season match.
As she nears the centennial mark, Reign FC put together a fantastic video that reflects on her first days with the club, and what they’ve accomplished since 2013.
“When I decided to take this job, if someone had said to me I would coach 100 games, I wouldn’t have thought it was even possible,” Harvey says in the video. “There were so many question marks around whether the league would survive, I had no idea where we were going to go with it, or what it was going to be.”
Today, Harvey is one of just three coaches in the NWSL to remain with their club for all five seasons. She’s also the only female head coach in the league, and despite a rough start that first year, Harvey is the winningest coach in league history.
She brought a style of play into the league that focused on technical, possession-based soccer. While Seattle and Kansas City were the first NWSL teams to play this way, it has trickled slowly across the league, and more teams are moving away from a sole reliance on physicality and athleticism.
“I think we challenged everybody to be better, and I think they are now,” Harvey says in the video.
Yet, for all the accolades — which by the way include two NWSL Shields and two NWSL Coach of the Year honors — what players say makes Harvey special is how she treats her players as not just professional athletes, but individuals off the field. She’s created a locker room environment nearly unrivaled among any professional sports team around the world.
“Laura believed in me as a player and person from the start when not many coaches did,” said centerback Lauren Barnes in a Reign FC blog. “If you ask anyone who has played for her, I bet they all wish they were still playing for her. She treats all her players and staff as human beings and invests in a personal relationship with everyone.”
There’s perhaps no better evidence for how much players have bought into Harvey’s system than a count of how many have remained with the squad since the inaugural season, when the team finished second-to-last. Seattle has more original players than any team in the league, as Barnes, Jess Fishlock, Elli Reed, Kiersten Dallstream, Haley Kopmeyer, and Megan Rapinoe have all been with the club since 2013. Christine Nairn also returned this year after a trade for Kim Little sent her to the Washington Spirit.
“Harvey changed my life and she knows that,” said Fishlock. “She had me believing in her from game one, and she has a whole club believing in her still at game 100.”
To have a U.S. Women’s National Team player, Rapinoe, so bought into the club is just icing on the cake. As Rapinoe told Sounder at Heart’s Jacob Cristobal, “(Laura) just gets it. As a human being, first and foremost, she just gets it. She just gets the whole picture and is really able to make all the players feel comfortable and wanted in such a great environment that we have."
There have been plenty of ups and downs for Reign FC, including some heartbreaking losses and tearful goodbyes to beloved players. But one thing always remains: this is Laura Harvey’s club, and we’d have it no other way.
So tonight, as young fans rush to get player autographs when the match concludes, they may want to be sure they get one from the backbone of this team: The Legend, Laura Harvey.