As Utah Royals FC general manager Stephanie Lee stood to give brief comments on Craig Harrington, the newly minted coach for the club stood as well and embraced her. It was a brief spontaneous moment that exuded genuine gratitude and excitement for what the club hopes will come.
The Royals ushered in a new era Friday with the hiring of Harrington — a former Chicago Red Stars assistant — as its new coach. It’s Harrington’s first head job in the National Women’s Soccer League after two years in Chicago under Rory Dames.
“I’m now at a stage in my career and life where I think now I’m ready for this,” Harrington said during his introductory press conference.
Harrington has coached Women’s World Cup players. He’s developed younger players during his time with the L.A. Galaxy academy team earlier in his career. Those attributes are just some of what made him so attractive as a candidate for Utah.
“You have to be able to have a conversation with a Christen Press — both technically, tactically and as a human — as well as turn around and have a conversation with someone that went through the draft, didn’t get picked and is trying to make the team," Lee said. “On all facets, it’s an important piece of the head coach role, and I think that his experience doing it already was a huge part of it.”
Harrington succeeds Laura Harvey, who was the franchise’s first-ever coach and recently left to take a job with U.S. Soccer and its Under-20 women’s team. Harvey had a reputation of being more a win-now coach. She exhibited it that by pushing to trade draft picks and giving minutes to experienced, albeit older, players.
Harrington wants to win, too. He described himself as more of an offensive coach that likes a “high octane" style of soccer. He hopes to utilize those strengths in the players already on Utah’s roster.
“The game’s about glory," Harrington said. “It’s about lifting trophies, it’s about scoring goals. I’m more an offensive-minded coach. I enjoy that part of the game. I enjoy having the ball. I want us to have the ball and I want us to use what we have: weapons to hit opposition teams.”
Harrington will bring new coaches to his staff, which he said would be announced at a later time. Royals assistant Amy LePeilbet and goalkeeper coach Jason Batty will remain with Utah under Harrington.
Assistant Scott Parkinson parted ways with the Royals after serving as interim coach while the club searched for a replacement. Parkinson is joining Chicago’s staff, The Salt Lake Tribune has learned.
Before his stint with Chicago, Harrington was the Technical Director of the Turks and Caicos Islands Football Association until 2016. His coaching career started in 2010 when he worked with the Galaxy’s academy team and was there for three seasons.
Harrington joins a Royals team that has underachieved in its two seasons. They have missed the postseason in consecutive years despite having three players from the FIFA Women’s World Cup-winning USWNT on its roster.
The Red Stars, meanwhile, have made the playoffs each of the last four years, and Harrington was around for the last two of those. Lee said she got the sense Harringon was “personally more aligned with the Royals than necessarily the Red Stars" and wanted the opportunity to be the main guy.
“I think Rory was the captain of that ship and Craig was looking for the opportunity to be the captain of his own ship,” Lee said.