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Reign still working to polish final product

Laura Harvey dishes on the team's scoring woes, defensive consistency, playing younger players, and the upcoming transfer window.

Last Updated
5 min read

TUKWILA – Seattle Reign held their last local training of the week on Wednesday at Starfire on an overcast day with scattered sun breaks and showers, sometimes at the same time. They’ll be flying to New Jersey tomorrow and holding two trainings there before they face Gotham FC for the first time this season on Sunday at 10 a.m. PT. A focus at training today was polishing their end product – crisper passing, better finishing, and faster decision making on defense.

Ahead of practice, head coach Laura Harvey talked to media about some of the team’s struggles, particularly when it comes to scoring goals.

“The Portland game, the Kansas game at home, even sort of Louisville – except that apart from the last three minutes – that's the team that I think we should have been all this time where we're hard to beat, we don't give up chances easily. we defend really solidly, but we talk about, you know, the finer details of scoring goals,” she commented. “I think the hard things being that because of the way that we've lost some of the games, we've had to talk about other things on top of that. But I think the last two games is the team that I thought we were probably gonna be. Even the Washington game at home, you know, at the start of the season – we were dominant in that game, but we still only scored one goal from a penalty, you know? So I think you look at the xG (expected goals) from the game last weekend and take out the penalty; you're still expected to score over three goals.”

Finding consistency on defense

One area Harvey has been more happy with in the past few games – again, aside from the final three minutes last week – is defense. Due to a variety of factors, including fitness and injuries, she’s had to rotate her backline significantly more than in past seasons, which means players haven't been getting as many reps together to build chemistry.

“I think the one thing that we've changed more this year more than anything is we've changed our back line a lot, and that's just not who we are,” Harvey said. “So I think finding that piece, getting that balance right… obviously you saw Lu [Barnes] and Ryanne [Brown] come off at the weekend, so we're just assessing where they're at and whether they can play a part this week, because I actually think that they've been really good the last couple of games. So I think it's not new for us to mix it up a little bit, but definitely want to try and find that, real partnerships that work.”

Harvey mentioned that Barnes’ and Brown’s injuries from the weekend were not as severe as initially feared, and indeed they participated in the first half of training with the rest of the team, taking part in passing and movement drills, but when the team shifted to contact drills, both moved off to the side to do separate work. Alana Cook took Barnes’ spot next to Phoebe McClernon among the starters during an 11v11 drill, while time at left fullback was split between Shae Holmes and Lily Woodham.

When asked about Cook having seemingly fallen down the depth chart, Harvey offered a couple of explanations related to the lingering effects of Cook’s injury, which kept her out of most of preseason.

“It’s been a tough year for Alana. One, it's physical,” she started. “Two, I think when… players don't have a preseason – we've seen it with Lu a little bit, too – when you don't have that solid preseason behind you, you're always in catch-up mode, and that's physical, mental, all of it.  And I think coming off the back of the Kansas loss after all the other losses, that was probably the one thing we hadn't tried was Alana not starting. And so we just looked at it, thought whether it could work. I thought we did well against Portland, we kept a clean sheet. I think if a back line keeps a clean sheet, you want to try and move on that again. But I thought when she came on against Louisville, I thought we saw signs of the Alana Cook we all know and love, so that was positive.”

Summer cup youth movement

While there has been a lot of lineup churn this season – the club has yet to start the same XI twice – that hasn’t translated to many minutes for some younger players as of yet. Harvey sees the upcoming Summer Cup as a time for the kids to make their mark and give some other players a much-needed break. Sofia Huerta, for example, has played nearly 225 minutes of stoppage time – 2 ½ games worth! – on top of her 14 complete matches this year.

“Honestly, I see [the Summer Cup] as an opportunity for us to give younger players time, to maybe try some things out,” Harvey said. “Because we’re six points off the playoffs, right?  So we've got to keep pushing that.

“And that sometimes means like – look at Emeri [Adames] at the weekend, right? Is Emeri's game about coming on and seeing a game out? No. Emeri's game's about coming on and being who she is, which is someone who can flick the ball over someone's head. But that flick over someone's head may give the ball away and, you know, in a one-nil lead that late in the game, she's not the sub. In the Summer Cup? Go for it, kid. You go be you. So I think that's how we see it.”

Summer window likely to have long-term focus

With new ownership finally settled, three unused international slots, and rumors already circulating about the potential signing of Haitian forward Nérila Mondésir, fans are understandably anxious for news of potential summer reinforcements to help save a foundering season. Harvey tamped down expectations a bit when discussing what sorts of players the club might be looking at in the upcoming window, which opens on August 1. With only 10 games remaining in the regular season once the window opens, she stressed the importance of making the right signings to set up the team for long-term success.

“I don't think it's about really solidifying what we need today,” Harvey explained. “Would it be great to get some pieces in that could turn some chances into goals? That would be great, I think some dynamicness around our midfield and forward line would be great. And I think we have to balance whether we're doing things that are going to impact our team right now, and are we going to do things that are going to impact our team for the long future? I think that that there's two sort of balancing acts to that, which I think now, with our new ownership and what we're looking at. We're obviously looking at, yeah, we want to get in the playoffs and we want this season to have meaning, because that's what it's about. You know, we're in a results business, but also, what's our plan for the future? And are we going to do something in August that impacts that? Maybe, and I think they're the conversations that we're having right now.”