Skip to content

Reign general manager: NWSL’s “Seattle can be something much bigger”

Jan 3, 2013, 4:00 PM EDT

reign logo

The announcement stood in stark contrast to the rest of the league’s appointments, to the extent there were any. With many of the new National Women’s Soccer League’s teams having participated at some level of last year’s U.S. Soccer “pyramid,” most coaching staffs were in place when teams signed up for this latest attempt at top-flight women’s soccer. Of the vacant spots, FC Kansas City hired from their partner’s Major Indoor League team while the Portland Timbers’ women’s instance (Thorns FC) created a few ripples by hiring former national team star Cindy Parlow Cone.

The neophyte Seattle Reign took a noticeably different approach, one which saw the team look beyond the confines of the U.S. domestic landscape for somebody who would qualify as a bombshell, if such things exist in the world of women’s club coaching hires.

“Initially reaching out, you never know until you try,” is how Reign FC general manager Amy Carnell described the club’s coaching search, one that ended with the unlikely Dec. 21 hire of Laura Harvey.

Lured to the Pacific Northwest from Arsenal LFC, Harvey is one of the most compelling names you could conjure as a possible NWSL hire. The 32-year-old (now former) Arsenal Ladies coach saw defeat only twice in 48 games during in her two Women’s Super League seasons, capturing both of the nascent league’s titles. In UEFA Champions League, Harvey had recently steered her side past German giants Turbine Potsdam in the competition’s knockout stages, a notable victory considering the recent successes of Frauen-Bundesliga clubs (and England’s lack of results). As difficult as it was to raise the stakes for a team with Arsenal’s success, Harvey was doing it, creating a continental power from a team that was losing ground to the Lyons, Frankfurts, and Turbines of the region.

Because of the lack of exposure for the European club game has in the United States, Harvey’s accomplishments are unlikely to be appreciated. For most Puget Sound residents that will see Seattle’s first NWSL games, Harvey is a non-factor. That doesn’t make her résumé any less remarkable.

“What she’s done at Arsenal is unprecedented,” Carnell explained. “The thing that’s most impressive about Laura is how well she works under pressure. She knew [there would be pressure] going into the Arsenal job, and to have the success over the past few years that she’s had is incredible.”

“One of the most appealing things about Laura was her ability to manage big players – to manage egos.” With Arsenal stocking the likes of Kelly Smith, Alex Scott, Steph Houghton, Katie Chapman and Rachel Yankey (all England internationals), ‘loaded’ would be an understated way to describe the Lady Gunners’ advantages.

“That was one of our priorities in bringing in a coach,” Carnell explained. “Depending on what players we get, we want a coach that those players are going to respect and a coach that’s going to be able to manage a big star all the way down to a star college player in their first year as a pro.”

In England

Arsenal LFC has won both WSL titles, scoring the most goals while allowing the fewest over the short history of England’s eight-team league. As the two-year goal differences illustrate, the WSL has played as a very top-heavy and stratified league.

Pos. Club GP W L D Pts GD
1 Arsenal 28 20 2 6 64 +41
2 Birmingham City 28 15 3 10 55 +29
3 Everton 28 14 6 8 50 +10
4 Lincoln Ladies 28 11 9 6 39 +0

Not that there aren’t risks that come with importing Harvey. Only 32, Harvey may be younger than some of her Reign players, depending on the results of allocation and recruitment. That wouldn’t be a completely foreign position for her, having managed a star-studded team at Arsenal, though the talent at Harvey’s disposal brings up another concern. Arsenal was far and away the most talented team in the WSL, their dominance of their domestic league more obligatory than surprising. In the United States, there’s no guarantee Harvey will have such luxuries.

“I believe in people’s abilities to do their job,” Carnell said when asked why she feels Harvey can adjust to a more competitive environment. “It’s passion and work-ethic. If you have those two things, I think you can be successful, and she obviously [has them].”

But criticisms about inexperience and talent advantages may miss the point. At least, in the big picture — looking beyond the immediate win-loss-benefit of the move — competitive factors aren’t the only considerations. Ambition matters, and for a team yet to play a game, so does reputation – prestige.

For the Reign, Harvey’s signing is a symptom of a club looking beyond the early, relatively modest origins of the NWSL. The team’s looking toward a success that transcends the league’s modest goals.

“The vision is Seattle can be something much bigger,” Carnell says.

“[It's about] building out a vision of this brand and not just being a leader within our own league. The long term goal is to be one of the best clubs in the world and be a recognizable brand.”

Seattle has a long way to go to be considered in the same breath as European champions Lyon Feminine or even WSL titans Arsenal. But with the hire of Harvey, it’s difficult to imagine the team making a more compelling first step.

“Part of my talk with Laura was just selling her on what we’re looking to do here,” Carnell explained. “She’s very much on the same page with where she wants to go in her career, as well.”

That attitude’s a reflection of the drive Seattle group’s shown since first appearing on the women’s soccer map last summer. Then, owner Bill Predmore emerged as somebody surprisingly willing to fight for a second team in Seattle. At the time, the Sounders Women (a team using Sounder branding without being a direct offshoot of their Major League Soccer namesake) had just completed a W-League season featuring the likes of Hope Solo, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, and Sydney Leroux. Many assumed that whatever women’s team surfaced from the area, it would have the Sounder label attached. That the Seattle-based POP media agency owner was willing to challenge that brand while embracing some financial risk (implying he’d lose money to grow the game) made Predmore an early, refreshing face on what would evolve into the NWSL landscape.

source:  “Bill Predmore, the owner, and I want to think out of the box,” Carnell (right) explained, trying to find words to describe the approach that led to Harvey’s hiring.

“The biggest thing is that we want to deliver to our fans a top-tier coach and world class players. We believe our fans here in Seattle deserve that … we’re trying to do it the right way and build a world class brand here in Seattle. That’s the direction that we’re going, and if we want our fans to know anything, it’s that.”

They’re sentiments that would be dismissed as perfunctory in most leagues, but for the NWSL, it’s a refreshing show of ambition – an attitude that’s been tacitly verboten since the league was announced. In different ways, ambition by the Women’s United Soccer Association (2001-2003) and Women’s Professional Soccer (2009-2011) undid previous attempts to make a league work. With that in mind, it’s understandable the U.S. Soccer’s venture has maintained a more limited perspective.

But the Reign are in a very competitive market. They will be competing with another women’s team (the Sounders Women still intent to field a team in the lower-level W-League) without the benefits of the Sounders’ extremely powerful branding. Making as many splashes as possible will not only keep the Reign in Seattle’s soccer conscience, it will also help the club stay in step with what’s sure to be another wave-making team 200 miles to the south (Portland).

In that regard, Seattle may have already gotten an early (though potentially insignificant) leg up. Though Portland hired a former U.S. national team legend, Reign FC made a hire that could transcend any impact made on the field. Because even if Harvey fails to adjust to whatever challenges NWSL soccer presents, the coup announces Seattle as a club willing to transcend expectations. They’re willing to be great, or at least try.

That’s what these types of moves are about.

Latest Posts
  1. MLS’s new logo: Reddit (yes, Reddit) may have a way to solve the league’s new problem

    Sep 18, 2014, 9:22 PM EDT

    MLS_crest_club_colors

    Users decided to make the new art’s white space into a plus, ditching the high brow concept in favor of more appealing products.

  2. MLS Preview: Real Salt Lake vs. Colorado Rapids

    Sep 18, 2014, 8:20 PM EDT

    Portland Timbers v Real Salt Lake Getty Images

    NBCSN’s first of three weekend broadcasts takes place tomorrow night at Rio Tinto Stadium.

  3. FA chairman: England “might well bid for” Euro 2028

    Sep 18, 2014, 7:41 PM EDT

    greg_dyke Getty Images

    It’s 14 years off, but The FA is still planning to make a push.

  4. Europe League roundup: Everton big winners at home; Spurs left with draw on the road

    Sep 18, 2014, 6:15 PM EDT

    seamus_coleman AP

    Roberto Martinez makes an impressive European debut, while Mauricio Pochettino sees him team go without a shot on target.

  5. It’s not too late for Major League Soccer to turn away from its new logo

    Sep 18, 2014, 4:25 PM EDT

    don_garber_mls_logo AP

    MLS has admitted failure before. Today’s new art may prove to be another idea the league should cast off.

  6. Premier League Power Rankings: Red Devils and Villans on the up

    Sep 18, 2014, 3:09 PM EDT

    Manchester United v Queens Park Rangers - Premier League Getty Images

    With Week four in the books, here’s how the PL teams stack up in our rankings of power.

  7. Reactions to “MLS Next” as North America’s top-flight launches rebrand

    Sep 18, 2014, 2:27 PM EDT

    MLS_crest_club_colors

    What are people saying about Major League Soccer’s new look?

  8. Arsene Wenger’s biggest regret is missing out on Cristiano Ronaldo

    Sep 18, 2014, 1:45 PM EDT

    Everton v Arsenal - Premier League Getty Images

    Wenger: “I was so close to signing Cristiano Ronaldo.”

  9. Auf Wiedersehen! Felix Magath out as Fulham boss after terrible tenure

    Sep 18, 2014, 1:09 PM EDT

    STOKE ON TRENT, ENGLAND - MAY 03: Fulham manager Felix Magath reacts as his side are relegated following their defeat in the Barclays Premier League match between Stoke City and Fulham at the Britannia Stadium on May 3, 2014 in Stoke on Trent, England. Getty Images

    After just four wins from 20 games, Fulham’s owner has seen enough from Magath.

  10. Brendan Rodgers on Liverpool’s growing pains: “There’s no magic formula”

    Sep 18, 2014, 12:37 PM EDT

    There's nothing nice about watching your side squander a three goal lead to end up with a draw. Getty Images

    Rodgers’ side have had an up and down start to the season. Is it the sign of things to come?

  11. Europa League preview: Will Everton, Tottenham reach knockout stages?

    Sep 18, 2014, 11:33 AM EDT

    tim_howard Getty Images

    Here’s what lies in store for Everton and Tottenham as Thursday night soccer begins.

  12. Taking back time: FIFA says officials must return expensive watches

    Sep 18, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT

    Brazil v Germany: Semi Final - 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Getty Images

    Parmigiani watches worth over $25,000 dished out by Brazilian federation to FIFA’s exec. members must be returned.

  13. Arsenal linked with three free agents, as defensive woes continue

    Sep 18, 2014, 10:18 AM EDT

    FC Lokomotiv Moscow v FC Zenit St. Petersburg - Premier League Getty Images

    Gunners need reinforcements in defense, so who are they making a move for?

  14. Ole Gunnar is gone: Solksjaer out as Cardiff City manager

    Sep 18, 2014, 9:35 AM EDT

    Blackburn Rovers v Cardiff City - Sky Bet Championship Getty Images

    Norwegian boss let go after just 9 wins in 30 games in charge of the Bluebirds.

  15. Chelsea have Diego Costa injury concern

    Sep 18, 2014, 8:56 AM EDT

    Chelsea FC v FC Schalke 04 - UEFA Champions League Getty Images

    Star striker struggling with persistent hamstring problem ahead of Manchester City clash.

  16. PHOTO: MLS unveils new logo. What do you think?

    Sep 18, 2014, 8:19 AM EDT

    MLSLogoEdit1

    What do you guys think of the brand new MLS logo?

  17. US move up one place in latest FIFA rankings; Wales the big winners

    Sep 18, 2014, 7:40 AM EDT

    Michael Orozco, Mix Diskerud, Matej vydra AP

    Klinsmann’s men move up after Czech Republic win. See where they’re ranked in the top 20.

  18. Fire-ravaged dog home claims Mario Balotelli made sizable donation

    Sep 17, 2014, 11:30 PM EDT

    Balo

    A dog home ravaged by fire last week believes Mario Balotelli has made a sizable donation.

  19. PST Extra: Sneak preview of Manchester City v. Chelsea

    Sep 17, 2014, 10:55 PM EDT

    MC CH

    Joe Prince-Wright and myself sat down with Jenna Corrado to discuss what City and Chelsea each need to accomplish to secure victory.

  20. ‘We Will Speak English': Louis van Gaal’s instruction to Manchester United players

    Sep 17, 2014, 10:28 PM EDT

    VanGaal Getty Images

    Looking for complete transparency, however, Van Gaal has laid down the law: English only.

Featured video

Breaking down Man City vs. Chelsea