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It’s official: Laura Harvey named Salt Lake head coach

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She heads behind enemy lines for the 2018 season.

laura harvey Mike Russell

It’s official: Laura Harvey will remain in the NWSL for the 2018 season, but she won’t be in a Seattle Reign FC kit this time around. On Monday, Harvey was introduced as the new head coach of Utah’s NWSL soccer team, which is owned by Real Salt Lake.

Yes, the woman who was the face, the persona, the mastermind that led Reign FC for five seasons will now be behind enemy lines—taking over a squad that currently includes players like Becky Sauerbrunn, Desiree Scott, and Shea Groom.

So, how did we get here? How did a coach who once said, “As long as [Seattle Reign] exists, I don't see me going to any other club,” suddenly end up on the opposition’s bench?

According to multiple sources, Richard Farley’s original reporting for FourFourTwo was accurate, and Harvey was set to take a role with U.S. Soccer—working alongside Jill Ellis to build the U.S. women’s national team toward the 2019 World Cup. Somewhere between the time she left Seattle and now, that plan changed.

According to RSL General Manager Craig Waibel, the team had already identified their top coaching target in mid-November when they joined the league, and the coach they wanted was “willing to listen.” It appears that target was Harvey, and with her immediate coaching future in limbo, the opportunity to access MLS resources and build another squad that could compete was too enticing.

“Laura's record of excellence has been proven on both sides of the pond, and she obviously possesses a vast knowledge not only of the NWSL but of international players all over the world,” said Waibel in a club announcement. “Much has been made of our whirlwind entry into NWSL over the last 10 days, but we have targeted Laura since the outset as the top candidate for this opportunity. She's certainly the right fit given our club culture and how she sees the game and wants it to be played.”

Meanwhile, according to Richard Farley, Harvey was still one of the top 3 candidates in consideration for the England women’s national team head coach position.

RSL now gets in Harvey a coach with the most wins since the league began in 2013. She left Seattle with 51 wins, 33 losses and 26 draws, two NWSL shields, and two NWSL Coach of the Year awards.

Harvey, on the other hand, takes over a club that moved from Kansas City to Salt Lake this offseason after FC Kansas City folded. Yes, that FC Kansas City. The same club that, under new Reign FC head coach Vlatko Andonovski, bested Seattle in two NWSL championships. Seattle gets their coach, FC Kansas City—I mean, RSL—gets ours.

We are not in the Upside Down, but it certainly feels like it.

Andonovski expressed interest in acquiring some of his former Blues players for Seattle, and Harvey likely has a list of Reign FC players she’d love to bring to Utah. In October, Reign FC announced that 11 players had their options exercised for the 2018 season and another six had been extended new contract offers: Lauren Barnes, Carson Pickett, Jess Fishlock, Rumi Utsugi, Naho Kawasumi, and Lydia Williams.

Fishlock, Kawasumi, and Williams are expected to remain in Seattle, but there are certainly plenty of other players Harvey would love to move on the current Reign FC roster. That means this is probably not the last time we hear from Seattle’s former boss this offseason. This time, however, we could be on the other side of her blockbuster trades.