The winningest regular season coach in NWSL will get a chance to build on that total. Laura Harvey, who stepped down as head coach and general manager of Seattle Reign FC last month, has accepted the head coaching job with the new Salt Lake City club which will replace FC Kansas City. The club will announce its name Wednesday but on Monday unveiled Harvey as field boss.
“First and hopefully only head coach,” general manager Craig Waibel said during an introductory news conference. Harvey said she did not expect to be right back in NWSL after leaving the Reign and confirmed that she pursued some international roles in the meantime. She said meeting with Waibel and owner Dell Loy Hansen made it difficult to turn her back on the opportunity. Even as she boarded a plane for Salt Lake City, Harvey said she was going partly due to intrigue about what the new club had to offer.
“Once I landed in Salt Lake, went to see the facilities, got the opportunity to speak to the guys there and saw the vision that everybody has about what this club could be it was a difficult thing for me to turn my back on and not continue the conversations,” Harvey, who said she accepted the position just before Thanksgiving, said.
Waibel said he intends to hire a managing director to oversea the women’s club and that the front office will always have input in player selection, but that by and large those decisions will be left to Harvey. As presently constituted, the club is made up of the FC Kansas City roster which was transferred first to the league office and then to the Salt Lake club.
“I’ve emailed quite a bit with most of the roster,” Waibel said. “The biggest thing for a lot of these players in the feedback I’m getting is just the excitement with the approach that we’re taking, the professionalism of our organization.”
Waibel, who made a similar move as a player when the San Jose Earthquakes relocated to Houston in 2006, said he and Harvey have planned for more detailed discussions with the roster over the next seven to ten days.
That Harvey is taking over the FC Kansas City roster put together by Vlatko Andonovski is an interesting twist since just before the FCKC ship sank, Andonovski jumped off and joined the Reign as Harvey’s replacement. Harvey said it will be “a little weird” to face Andonovski on opposite sidelines but also relished the opportunity to continue a rivalry. She also compared Hansen to her old boss in Seattle, Bill Predmore.
“When you speak to Dell Loy for five minutes, he is so passionate and driven about wanting to make this the best it can possibly be. And that’s people I like to work for. I worked for someone exactly the same in Seattle. That’s the thing this league needs. It needs people who have that drive and that desire and that want to make this league the best it can possibly be.
“When I got off the phone with Dell Loy I knew that was somebody who had that drive and passion. And when I got on the ground, everyone at the club was the same thing. That was a big part of my decision in being where I am today.”
In five seasons in Seattle, Harvey put together a regular season record of 51-33-26. The Reign won the Shield in 2014 and 2015. Both times they won home semifinals before losing to Andonovski’s FC Kansas City in the NWSL Championship. The Reign have missed the playoffs the last two seasons.
She said her base coaching style will remain the same. “Take care of the ball and if you don’t have it, work as hard as you can to get it back.”