No NWSL team has had a more turbulent preseason than the Seattle Reign. They were allocated a star that had previously committed to spend the spring in France. Then the player expected to be their leading scorer became pregnant. The face of their team was forced to undergo wrist surgery which will sideline her until June, while just this week their general manager left the team.
For Seattle’s newest professional team, the NWSL’s first season can’t start soon enough.
Laura Harvey’s hiring from Arsenal Ladies remains one of the high points of the offseason. The 32-year-old who won four titles (in four years) during her time London was brought in to coach the team. With the departure of Amy Carnell, she’ll also assume general manager’s duties, a doubling down by owner Bill Predmore. If Harvey has trouble adapting to the game in the States, Seattle problems will be compounded. On the other hand, if she can adapt quickly, the Reign will reap the benefits of a promising coach managing her own roster.
Shortly before boarding a flight to Chicago (where the Reign open their season on Sunday), Harvey took some time to talk to PST about the upcoming season. Here are our three good questions.
1.) None of your originally allocated U.S. players are with you to start the season. Megan Rapinoe, Hope Solo, and Amy Rodriguez are all out for various reasons. Which loss hurts most?
They all hurt in different ways. I think maybe the Hope one hurts the most because we initially thought we did have her, then we had to plan quite late in the day that we weren’t going to have her.
We knew pretty much from day one about the Megan situation, and obviously as much as (Amy Rodriguez’s situation) is disappointing for our team, it’s hard to be annoyed by that when someone’s pregnant.
They all hurt in different ways, but we had to react pretty quickly to the Hope one. The position that she plays is sometimes the hardest one to replace. But we got there in the end.
(Note: Michelle Betos, a 25-year-old who attended Georgia, appears set to start the season in goal.)
2.) The team went out and traded for a Keelin Winters, a midfielder on the fringe of the national team. Combined with the early return of Theresa Noyola and Christine Nairn’s fall in the draft, you have, on paper, a strong midfield. Can you describe what Winters adds to what you were originally given? And how do you plan to set up your midfield?
Keelin has the experience of playing at the highest level domestically both in the States and in Europe (note: Winters spent the fall with Germany’s Turbine Potsdam). She adds experience which, if you look across our team, I think that’s the one thing we lack – experience at this level. She’s a dynamic all-around midfielder who can give you a lot in attack and is a good defensive midfielder, too. That’s probably the main thing that she brings.
How we’ll set up our midfielder could chance game-to-game depending on who we’re playing. We’ll look to try to overload midfielder areas to allow our best players to get on the ball. We field our midfield area is strongest, so we’ll try to overload in there.
3.) Now the inevitable question about your outlook on the season. On one hand, good coaching can cover a myriad cracks, especially in defense (in my opinion). On the other hand, people are looking at the team on paper and saying this is a bottom-two squad. What are your expectations for the season?
I have big expectations. I don’t think it should ever be any different. In the experience I’ve had is coaching and managing club teams, you have to be realistic with expectations.
And there is a realism. Other coaches in the league have stated this, but at the minute everything that people talk about is on paper. The game is not won there.
Coaching helps. Organization helps. Being prepared helps. Getting your players in the best physical and mental state helps, and it doesn’t matter if they’re World Cup winners, have a hundred caps for their country, or they’re rookies who have just come out of college. As long as they’re prepared mentally, physically and they know what their job for the team is, then you have a chance of winning games.
We’ll find out in August who’ve won the most games, and by then we can judge who set the right expectations and (who) didn’t. If anyone (said they’d) set an expectation not to finish in the top half of the league, I think they’d be lying. I don’t think anyone goes into the league not expecting to get into the playoffs.
That should be everyone’s expectation level. For sure, that’s the same with us. We’re setting the bar high and we’re hungry, we’re enthusiastic, and we’re not going to shy away from any obstacle that comes our way. The first one will be in Chicago on Sunday.
(Follow-up, on Rapinoe and Solo situations lending to the temptation to look at this as two seasons in one.)
Potentially, yes. June, July, August for us – those could be a complete game-changer. If we can maintain on the tails of all the other teams come those dates, we have a chance of finishing. Undoubtedly any team getting Megan Rapinoe and Hope Solo back into the team will be a better team for it. You can’t deny that. We have that to look forward to.
Injuries, keeping your best players fit for as long as possible, (these) will be a major factor for teams in this league. If you can keep your best players on the field as long as possible you have the best chance of being successful, and we’re no different to that. Already we’ve had setbacks, as we all know. Megan’s been a bit different than an injury, but if can get [Rapinoe and Solo] back fit and healthy, we have a chance of being successful.
I don’t go into [a season] any other way. If somebody wants to tell me we’re going to finish bottom of the league, I’ll put any money on us moving up.
The NWSL season starts on Saturday in Kansas City. Here is more preview content from PST:
More NWSL previews:
- Team preview: Boston Breakers
- Team preview: Chicago Red Stars
- Team preview: FC Kansas City
- Team preview: Portland Thorns
- Team preview: Seattle Reign FC
- Team preview: Sky Blue FC
- Team preview: Washington Spirit
- Team preview: Western New York Flash