Congratulations to Seattle Reign F.C.
One of the new teams in the National Women’s Soccer League (set to begin play in Spring 2013) named their first head coach today, a decidedly creative and outside-the-box choice.
That “box” would have had owner Bill Predmore and general manager Amy Carnell troll connections to the defunct Women’s United Soccer Association and Women’s Professional Soccer, fishing through their contact books and leaning on old friends to find the best options with domestic experience. Or perhaps they could have looked to the NCAA ranks, as Portland Thorns F.C. did, and identify a promising prospect. If they could find a Cindy Parlow Cone, more power to them, but U.S. National Team legends aren’t exactly dotting the coaching landscape right now. (Exception?)
Instead, Seattle looked abroad, looked at teams that have had success in other places, and ID’d 32-year-old Laura Harvey, head coach of English superpower Arsenal for the past two-plus seasons. In that time she won a couple of Women’s Super League titles and, perhaps most impressively, got the team over a bit of a Champions League hump early last month, knocking German power Turbine Potsdam out at the Round of 16.
No doubt, Harvey had incredibly talented teams. Kelley Smith is the women’s game’s answer to Juan Roman Riquelme. Alex Scott is Ashley Cole. Kate Chapman, Steph Houghton, Rachel Yankey are all established England internationals, and impressive youngsters Kim Little, Jordan Nobbs, Jennifer Beattie and Gilly Flaherty meant Harvey had better than a mere complementary cast. The team was freakin’ loaded. There’s little doubt Arsenal should go through Women’s Super League seasons undefeated (as they did in 2012), even if that doesn’t make it any less of an accomplishment.
It could, however, engender doubts about Harvey’s qualifications, but given the NWSL has never played a game, there are doubts about every coach’s ability to adapt to the new league. Just as we see structural issues affect management in MLS, NWSL is set to offer a series of distinct challenges. For example, Harvey probably won’t be able to lure the Smiths and Scotts back to North America. There’s no money for them.
At the same time, those early November Turbine Potsdam results are incredibly impressive. Six goals (four on the road) against a German team in Champions League speaks to some coaching quality, be it tactical, in preparation, or in motivation. And considering Arsenal had been badly eliminated from the previous Champions League by FFC Frankfurt (4-1 in the semifinals), the result showed progress, even if Turbine weren’t as strong as they’d been in past seasons.
Progress is a good thing to see in a coaching candidate. So are results. So is the ability to manage talent, but perhaps most importantly, so is competing at the highest levels. UEFA’s Women’s Champions League is the highest level in the women’s club game, and for the Reign to look to England and that competition to fill their coaching vacancy showed some serious imagination.
Great start, Seattle.