“You ain’t seen nothing yet.”
Those were Laura Harvey’s words to start off the post-match press conference following their 2014 regular season opener, in which midfielder Kim Little made her debut for the club then known as Seattle Reign FC. In that match, Little scored a brace in 84 minutes of work as part of a 3-0 win over the Boston Breakers.
A moment of silence for one of the founding NWSL clubs no longer with us. Come back soon!
What makes that 84 minute, two-goal debut for Little notable was Harvey said she had only arrived in town some 48 hours prior to kickoff, hence that confident perhaps ominous warning shot to the rest of the league to just wait and see what Little was capable of once she was fully settled in. The warning was apt.
While it was only the second year of play for the NWSL, Little absolutely bossed the league in that 2014 season in a way that no one was ready for — scoring 16 goals and adding 7 assists en route to a league MVP award.
The following season, Little claimed 10 goals and 7 assists. In those two seasons, the Reign won the NWSL Shield for best regular season record, and while they fell short of winning the ultimate prize of the NWSL Championship in both seasons, Little was a major factor in the dominance of the squad. Her final season at the Reign in 2016 was quiet compared the previous two exceptional seasons, but she already left her mark in the club’s history and drew accolades from those around these parts who knew to appreciate soccer artistry and greatness.
And now she’s coming back.
Yesterday, just as OL Reign were about to kick off the second half of their match against San Diego Wave FC, which they went on to win 1-0, OL Reign General Manager Nick Perera was on the field with a microphone in hand to make the announcement to the Lumen Field crowd. Even from the press box, you could hear the very loud noises of shock and excitement the moment he said her name and then the videoboards in Lumen Field played a video with Little herself succinctly saying:
“Hi, I’m Kim Little and I’m back, Seattle. See you at Lumen Field this summer. Go Reign.”
If you attended matches across the 2014 and 2015 seasons, you undoubtedly have memories of Little treating the field like a blank canvas, painting it how she saw fit. Sunday’s announcement sent shockwaves across the NWSL and the excitement definitely was not lost on OL Reign players Jess Fishlock and Rose Lavelle, or on head coach Laura Harvey. Here’s what each had to say after the match about Little’s return to OL Reign.
“I think this announcement of bringing Kim back here is like taking [Cristiano] Ronaldo back to Manchester United or [Didier] Drogba back to Chelsea. This woman is just phenomenal and I obviously speak to Kim a lot, so I kind of knew this was happening for a little while. I texted her today and I just said I am so excited. I’ve dreamt of this moment since the second she left. I think the beauty about this it’s not just big for this club, I think it’s huge for the league, I think it’s huge for Seattle as a city because there will be loads of people that remember those times, and then there will be loads of people that are like, ‘I’ve heard about her, but I just need to see her.’ I’m kind of fangirling right now. I just fucking love Kim, I just love her.”
“Adding Kim Little, it’s going to be so fun. I remember when I was in college and I would watch NWSL games watching her and she was my favorite player in the league. So I’m fangirling too. I cannot wait for her to get here and be a part of this group. She’s going to add so much. She’s literally one of the best players in the world and probably the best playmaker in the world. I think it’s going to be so fun.”
“I’m just going to be like, ‘Yo, who are you going to stop? Are you going to stop Rose? Are you going to stop Kim? Are you going to stop Jess? Are you going to stop Rapinoe? Are you going to stop Boats [Bethany Balcer]? Who are you going to stop? Good luck.’”
“Kim is someone that, when you look at this league over 10 years, she was here for three years and the conversation with people within the league is, ‘Who has been the best player in the league?’, and Kim Little’s name comes into that all time because of the level that she performed at when she was here before. Obviously, I watched her career, watched her blossom again at Arsenal and I always knew there was an itch for her to come back. In this past year watching her play at Arsenal again, I think she’s back in the form that we saw of her in that 2014-2015 period when she was just unstoppable. I think being able to bring someone like that back into this club shows our ambition. It shows our willingness to want to go to the extra mile for our players and I think, not only will Kim bring quality experience; she knows what this league’s about, but she’ll also help our young players. How Kim plays and what she does is really reflective in some of our young players. I think being able to train with her every day and watch her play games, they’ll learn a lot from that.”
For those that don’t know or would like the reminder, Harvey was in charge of Arsenal from 2008 to 2012 before joining the Reign in her first stint at head coach. She signed then-seventeen year old Little in 2008, creating a five-year run at the north London club and the rest is history.
Will Little’s second stint at the Reign be as impactful as her first stint? Only time will tell once she is back in the Puget Sound region and gets settled in with this version of Laura Harvey’s squad. Taking into consideration what Harvey said on Sunday about Little returning to that 2014-2015 form, let’s take a look at her form over the past year in comparison to a pair of Sounders FC players generally lauded for being impact players in the midfield, Nicolás Lodeiro and Cristian Roldan.
And here’s Kim Little.
All of these metrics highlight that Kim Little has been influential in Arsenal’s midfield in their recently-completed WSL season. Returning to a club where she’s known the head coach for the majority of her professional career and playing with some of the same players she partnered with during her first stint means they can instinctively run back the classics, along with adding each of their evolved skillsets. It all makes the excitement of Sunday’s announcement very palpable. If you’d like some visuals as to what Kim Little’s form in 2022 is like, here are some highlights.
With OL Reign picking up their second regular season win on Sunday, we might be seeing the start of an already talent-loaded squad with championship ambitions/expectations hitting their stride. And Kim Little is going to re-join the band for a summer concert series?
Laura Harvey might be saying it again like it’s 2014.
You ain’t seen nothing yet.