There are times in soccer when the head coach and the general manager find themselves on different pages. The needs of the team in the short term, usually the head coach, and the long term, usually the general manager, sometimes fall in contrast with each other and a change is needed.
But what happens when the general manager and the coach are the same person?
There are two factors here I think need to be explored. One is the amount of responsibility the Reign organization placed on Harvey’s shoulders while the other is the dynamic between Harvey the general manager and Harvey the head coach.
It seems that the Reign have gone all in on Harvey running everything.
Laura Harvey is currently the head coach and general manager of Seattle Reign FC while at the same time the executive director of the Reign Academy.
Right now, the Reign Academy has teams playing in the 2004, 2003, 2002/2001 and 2000/1999 age brackets, according to their site. And while Kim Calkins is listed as the technical director of the academy, and likely shoulders much of the day-to-day running of the program, at the end of the day it is likely that Harvey shares a fair amount of the responsibility for making sure the program runs smoothly.
Harvey likely knows, as do the Reign, that if the NWSL keeps growing that homegrown players will one day become something the NWSL has the way MLS does. And having a strong system to grow those players and build a new generation of talent benefits the club. But giving Harvey another hat when she is already wearing two, though they are connected, as head coach and general manager of Reign only stretches her thinner than she was before.
I am not saying that someone of Harvey’s clout and position should not be involved in the Academy. She should be a strong presence as someone who might one day either draft or sign one of these players. But to give her the overall top job when she already has the two biggest for the senior team feels unoriginal for the ownership group. While Harvey is someone that it’s clear Teresa and Bill Predmore have the utmost respect and faith in, there are others who might be more suited to this job so Harvey can take care of the senior team.
The part that might be more troubling than the many hats Harvey wears is how well she wears the general manager hat.
There are many things that the Seattle Reign are known for. One of the less ideal is the way that Seattle has stubbornly limited their long-term depth by not taking full advantage of the draft. The draft seems almost an afterthought for Harvey and in her role as the general manager something she rather skip all together over taking the time to properly prepare for.
It’s not to say that she has never gotten a good draft pick — Katie Johnson has been quite good this year — but she traded all but one pick away for 2018 when the Reign need depth now more than ever. Both her seeming lack of preparation and her quickness at trading away nearly all the draft picks to either bring players back to the team or to get future considerations is worrying for a team that ranks among the oldest in the league.
One of the more troubling patterns Harvey has is her insistence on moving players she trusts to spots that do not highlight their skills instead of bringing on players either through the draft or trades that she doesn’t already have a working relationship with or someone on the team hasn’t directly played with. Three of the more painful to watch conversions has been Bev Yanez forced out wide when she is a nearly prototypical center forward, Merritt Mathias playing right back and Lauren Barnes being used to patch any hole in the defense, big or small, while covering for less than stellar players around her.
And while this falls more into the coaching world than the general manager world, if the roles has become separate maybe one could aid the other in bringing in more talent than Harvery has been able to find by recycling players that have been on the Reign before or trying to turn Melbourne City FC of the W-League into Seattle’s feeder team.
Harvey, both the coach and the general manager, has also not replaced players lost either by retirement or by leaving to go overseas. Steph Cox, who is now a Reign coach, Keelin Winters, Kim Little, and Kendall Fletcher all have left the team in the last few seasons and none have been replaced either through coaching other players to take on those roles, drafting replacements that Harvey is willing to play, or with trades.
The coach has needs the general manager hasn’t been able to truly aid with. The only move that is seemingly a success is so far this season is bringing Lydia Williams in as a goalkeeper — though that does cast into doubt what will happen to Haley Kopmeyer next season.
So what is the fix here?
Honestly, the answer I think would do the most good is to allow Harvey to do what she does best. Coach. Allowing her to coach a team and having a general manager that only has to worry about that side of the club would free up both to devote more time to their posts. Harvey could aid in courting players and she would, of course, be able to offer input in to what the team needs. But at the end of the day the pressure would be off her to be the general manager.
I’m not saying it would be easy. Finding a truly strong general manager who both the ownership and Harvey works well with would take effort. But it is in the long term interest of the Seattle Reign to find someone to general manage while Harvey focuses her talents elsewhere.
Let Harvey be Harvey.