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December 21, 2012 at 2:48 PM

A stop and chat with new Reign FC coach Laura Harvey

I got a chance to catch up with new Reign FC coach Laura Harvey over the phone today. She’s still in England wrapping up duties with the Arsenal Ladies before coming stateside to continue preparations for the 2013 NWSL season.

Here is the transcript of our chat:

* * *

(A lot of people know the Arsenal Ladies as being an incredibly successful team. Why did you feel this job was right for you?) “I just thought it was a new, exciting opportunity. Arsenal is a fantastic job, and I loved every minute of it. I just thought I needed a change and this was the right one for me.”

(Women’s soccer in America has had a spotty past with two failed leagues. Why are you confident in this league?) “I think from a U.K. perspective that was the most intriguing part: ‘Why is this league going to be any different than the previous leagues?’ After speaking to the owner and the general manager, and doing a bit of research about how the league is being structured this time, I think it’s got a bit of a European feel to it — and traditionally all of our leagues over here are really strong. I think the structure in which the league is trying to progress itself is something I feel is sustainable.”

(A lot of attention has gone toward the North American involvement in the league, with U.S. Soccer and the Canadian/Mexican federations, what do you think the European interest will be in the NWSL?) “I think there’s always an interest when it comes to U.S. soccer, whether it be players, coaches, fans — everyone will be interested and intrigued about the league. I think European soccer has changed quite a lot since the previous WPS league. There are a lot more finances in European football, and players are on a lot different contracts than potentially they were back then, so I think it will be something that players are interested in, but I just think that maybe we might not see as many make the journey this time around.”

(The U.S. women’s national team will play a big role in the league, and Seattle will have a couple players, what have you thought of the success of the USWNT from afar?) “Pia (Sundhage) did a fantastic job and I think it’s going to be tough to take over that team. It’s a fantastic group of players — I think the highlight obviously being the London Olympics — and I think they proved in that tournament how strong a group it actually was. I think Pia has to take a lot of credit for that, but that’s what makes it exciting about coming to the league. There are so many good players. You look at some of the youth squads as well around the U.S. and the under-20s, etc., and there are a lot of good players coming though the college system, and match that with the seniors who’ve got such great experience and medals to show for it, it makes the league an exciting opportunity.”

(What’s been the response you’ve received since the news came out?) “My phone has never been so busy. Everyone’s really pleased for me. They see it as a great opportunity for my career. A lot of people were disappointed that I’m leaving the league in England and leaving Arsenal, but they see it — like myself — as a great opportunity. That’s exactly why I’ve taken it, because I think it is that. It was always going to take a lot to leave Arsenal, because it is such a fantastic club, but I feel that this is the right move for me. From my coworkers and the players who were at Arsenal that I’ve spoken to, that’s pretty much the response I’ve been getting.”

(What do you know about Seattle as a soccer city with the support the Sounders get?) “Yeah, it’s got a bit of a European feel to it, you know? Soccer is so attractive over there that I think people want to support it — not just the men’s side and the Sounders. I think obviously last year the women’s Sounders were playing and got a massive amount of support, as well. We just want to build on that. You look at the city as a whole and it’s got soccer in its blood. We’ve got to build on that and show the people that we want to be successful within that.”

(People have been reading about your success with Arsenal and the trophies that you’ve won, but how would you describe yourself and your coaching style?) “I’m pretty honest — honest with the players, honest with the fans, honest with the management above me. If we play well, I’ll say we did. If I don’t think we played well, I’ll say that, too. I think that’s the way I’ve always been brought up to believe in. I have a style of play that I think works and that I think is successful, but we’ll have to a build a team and see what kind of players we’ve got. You’ve got to get a good staff around you, which is something that we’re working toward to build something that has longevity. You’re not going to get success overnight. It’s something that has to be built on; it’s something that you have to work really hard for. But I think as a manager, I tend to be honest and upfront. I’m pretty down to earth. I’m pretty laid back. I don’t tend to throw a lot of (temper tantrums) or anything like that. I’m pretty honest, pretty down to earth, quite approachable to anyone who wants to speak to me.”

(Reign FC, at least publicly, doesn’t have any players on the roster yet. Will you play a big role in filling out the roster?) “Yeah, definitely. We’ve been having quite a few discussions the last couple of days around that. I’m sure they’ll continue over the next couple days, and that’s again what makes it exciting — to have a blank canvas and to build from there. With the draft systems coming up and the national team players having to look at what their options are, it’s an exciting time.”

(Coming from the birthplace of the sport to America, will it take some transitioning to get used to saying “soccer” instead of “football” and being called a “coach” instead of a “manager”?) “Yeah, my brother actually lives in Los Angeles, he’s been there for about eight years, so whenever I speak to him I hear it all the time. You’ll hear me say ‘football’ I’m sure (Ed note: She did just once previously in the whole interview and ‘soccer’ four times). Getting used to being called ‘coach’ rather than ‘manager’ is something that brings a smile to my face, but I’m looking forward to it. I’m going to have to keep saying ‘soccer’ in the next couple of weeks to get used to it.”


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