A phone call from Real Salt Lake owner Dell Loy Hansen piqued Laura Harvey’s interest.
Two days later she was on a plane to Salt Lake City, touring the RSL facilities and meeting general manager Craig Waibel, VP of Soccer Administration Rob Zarkos, RSL coach Mike Petke and VP of Broadcast & PR Trey Fitz-Gerald.
“You can see that they all have the same vision and the same drive that Dell Loy has,” Harvey said, “which was something that I think I wanted to be a part of.”
Less than a week later, Harvey, a two-time NWSL Coach of the Year and former Seattle Reign FC manager, accepted the job as the head coach of the new, Utah-based NWSL team. She was under consideration for multiple international coaching positions, but on Monday RSL announced her hiring.
“When I left the Reign, honestly, I never believed that I was going to be back in the NWSL,” Harvey told The Salt Lake Tribune. “It wasn’t in my thought process at all, and that just goes to show how much I think Salt Lake’s vision and desire to be the best is something that I don’t see any player or coach, or anybody really, not wanting to be part of it.”
For RSL, Harvey was a clear first choice to lead its new team. In her five years with Seattle Harvey accrued a 51-33- 26 regular season record, the second-best all-time in the league. In 2014 and 2015 she was named NWSL Coach of the Year after leading her team to the NWSL Shield in both seasons.
On top of that, her emphasis on possession-style play meshed perfectly with RSL’s vision for every teams under its ownership.
Said Waibel: “We liked the way her players read the game, moved off the ball, connected in the game, [were] not afraid with the knowledge to play over the top when the other team presses high and when it’s given to them, but Laura coaches a very disciplined style.”
Harvey resigned as the Reign coach on Nov. 7. She was strongly linked to the England women’s national team coaching job, but FourFourTwo reported that she had left the Reign to increase her role with U.S. Soccer, after coaching the U-23 squad in March. Seattle hired former Kansas City coach Vlatko Andonovski to replace Harvey.
“England was probably not the right time for me, I think,” Harvey told The Tribune, “and the U.S. Soccer [job] wasn’t what I thought it was going to be; it didn’t pan out the way I thought it was going to.”
In the midst of Harvey juggling those two opportunities, Hansen called. His enthusiasm convinced her to take a trip out to Salt Lake City. At first, she said, she thought even if she didn’t take the job she could at least impart some of her knowledge of the league to the organization that was just getting acquainted with it.
As she met more and more people involved with the club, she said she found everyone there had a drive to make their NWSL team and the league the best it could be.
They took her to the facilities at the Zions Bank Real Academy in Herriman, and when she stepped into the indoor training area, she said her jaw dropped.
“I was at the Reign, and there was no doubt in my mind that we had the vision from the top down that we wanted to be one of the best clubs in the world,” Harvey said. “But the realities of making the facilities available to us is tough.”
Harvey pointed to the high costs of operating in Seattle as well as not having the benefit of MLS resources.
With her hire now official, Harvey said she will begin reaching out to her new players in the next couple days, if not today. While evaluating and molding her roster, Harvey told the Tribune that she would pull on her overseas connections if she saw a good fit.
Hometown • Warwickshire, England
Club head coaching career
2013-2017 • Seattle Reign FC
2009-2012 • Arsenal L.F.C.
2006-2008 • Birmingham City Ladies FC
International coaching career
2017 • U-23 U.S. women’s national team head coach in January camp and March matches
2005-2011 • Assistant coach of England women’s national team U-17, U-19 and U-23 levels