Like movies, sometimes you have to run it back in sports.
Today, OL Reign announced that Laura Harvey will be returning as head coach after the conclusion of the Olympics, where she is currently serving as an assistant coach with the US Women’s National Team. Sam Laity will remain as interim head coach for the club’s next four matches until Harvey returns, and will then continue on as an assistant coach. Exact terms of Harvey’s contract weren’t disclosed, but OL Reign CEO Bill Predmore told Ride of the Valkyries that depending on certain factors the length of the deal could be up to two and a half years.
Harvey was the first head coach of the club (then known as Seattle Reign FC) when they began their play in the NWSL in the inaugural season of 2013, and amicably departed after the 2017 season. In that five-year span, Harvey guided the club to back-to-back NWSL Shields and NWSL Championship appearances in 2014 and 2015, coming up short of the ultimate prize each time to FC Kansas City, coached by now-USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski.
Harvey initially left the Reign for what was assumed to be a job with U.S. Soccer, although that opportunity allegedly fell through at the last minute. After the role didn’t come together, Harvey became head coach of Utah Royals FC from 2018 to 2019 (Utah Royals FC were the former FC Kansas City, and have since returned to Kansas City). Since 2020, Harvey has been coaching the USWNT U-20 team, leading them to an unbeaten seven-match run in the CONCACAF U-20 Championship.
“I am incredibly excited to welcome Laura back to the Reign. When she departed in 2017, I said she would always remain a part of our family—today’s announcement is the realization of my objective to someday bring her back home to our club. While Laura may be best remembered for her incredible success during our 2014 and 2015 seasons, it was her work after the 2013 season that for me makes her the perfect individual to lead the club today,” said Predmore in a team release.
“The idea to bring her back started after Farid’s resignation on [July 2],” Predmore shared with Ride of the Valkyries. “We went through a process that involved more than half a dozen candidates, of which she was one, and ultimately we decided that Laura was going to be the best fit for the role.”
While it seemed unlikely that Harvey would be returning to coach any NWSL club in the near future, let alone returning to the Pacific Northwest, a vacancy at the head coach position of a roster this talented meant that perhaps the easiest choice to fill that spot would be the original architect of the culture that can weather significant adversity like that aforementioned 2013 season and the abrupt resignation of former head coach Farid Benstiti earlier this month.
In her first stint with the Reign, Harvey introduced us to Jess Fishlock, Lauren Barnes, and Kim Little. Now Harvey will begin a second era of coaching the Reign with the prolific Lyon trio (Bouhaddi, Le Sommer, and Marozsán) and rising talents in Bethany Balcer, Tziarra King, Madison Hammond, and Sam Hiatt.
“It’s not about making huge change. I don’t think there needs to be huge change,” Harvey asserted in the team release. “I think it is all about building on the foundations that are already there and getting the players in a position where they can show their true potential as individuals and as a team. I believe that if we do that, we have a great chance at getting the results that we want and moving in a direction that we want, which is forward and up. I think that the transition piece is slightly easier because of my knowledge of the club. It’s new, fresh, and exciting, but it’s also got a very familiar feel to it which is nice and comfortable.”
For Harvey, returning to coach in the NWSL felt right after her excursion coaching at the national team level, and she has definitely not forgotten about coming up short at two NWSL Championships — she’s got some unfinished business.
“My message to the club and fans is that I’m excited; I’m really honored to be coming back. I’m a different coach than I was when I left, for the better. I have spent a lot of time investing in myself to be better and everyone is going to see the best version of me. Secondly, let’s f*****g go. Let’s just go and smash everybody. I can’t wait to get out there and show people what we can be as a club and try and push us to the full potential that I believe we have now and push us to what our potential can be as a club long term.”