Utah Royals’ new coach draws inspiration from his time in the Caribbean

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Owner of the Utah Royals FC, Dell Loy Hansen, left, is joined by his new coach, Craig Harrington, former Chicago Red Stars assistant as he answers questions from the media during a press event at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah on Friday, Feb. 7, 2020.

Herriman • Craig Harrington wanted a challenge.

The newly minted Utah Royals FC coach had experienced success a decade ago when he was part of the academy system with the L.A. Galaxy for three years. He worked for the Galaxy at a time when the organization’s pro team won back-to-back championships.

Harrington, in his late 20s at the time, enjoyed it, but wanted a more direct piece of the action. He longed for more of an influence on winning. He wanted to matter.

“I probably had a bit of arrogance about me,” Harrington said.

So following the advice of a mentor, the England native went searching for his next opportunity. The Turks and Caicos Islands Football Association answered his call.

The Turks and Caicos Islands are a British territory in the Caribbean, about 620 miles southeast of Miami. Harrington became the association’s new technical director in 2014, at a time when both the men’s and women’s side wasn’t very competitive.

He helped the TCI men’s team to its highest-ever FIFA ranking and led its attempt to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. TCI lost in the first round of qualifying.

But it was his work with the women both on and off the field that made the most impact on his career.

“It really branched and opened me up to the game of women,” Harrington said of his TCI experience.

One of the endeavors Harrington embarked upon was entering his women’s team into the 2014 Caribbean Women’s Cup, a new competition at the time that served as a qualifier for the CONCACAF Women’s Championship, a tournament where the winner qualified for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Harrington told soccer website The Equalizer that he was using the competition to assess his program.

“The tournament will be a benchmark for us to see where we are at, not just from the players’ point of view, [but] the infrastructure, coaching, management and medical,” Harrington told the website.

Turks and Caicos lost all three games in its group.

He remembers watching the 2015 Women’s World Cup with his wife and eldest daughter, drawing inspiration from American Carli Lloyd as she scored goals against Japan.

Harrington has always wanted to be a head coach and said he’s been “ruthless” in his pursuit of that goal — one he has now accomplished.

While life with TCI didn’t come with titles upon titles like his time with the Galaxy did, Harrington’s takeaway from that period is more all-encompassing. He learned to be a better communicator. He overcame cultural differences. He built positive and useful relationships all throughout the organization. He united everyone under a common goal.

“I think that’s what that environment gave me,” Harrington said. “It led me to get me to understand how I can do that better.”