Laura Harvey is the right coach to manage this OL Reign team

With three big names joining OL Reign over the next month – Kim Little, Tobin Heath and Jordyn Huitema – the competition for playtime is set to get a little tighter. Little is a former NWSL MVP and standout at Arsenal, Heath is a two-time World Cup winner and Olympic gold medalist, and Huitema recently won Olympic gold with Canada.

While fans may be understandably nervous about the impact this could have on the locker room, with some players missing out on minutes, OL Reign is fortunate to have a head coach in Laura Harvey who has created an environment focused on individual development and a team-first mentality.

“I think honesty and being straight with the players and telling them the truth – and you know, don’t sweeten too many things – is how I tend to always be in general in life,” Harvey said when asked how. he balances decisions on the roster when these big names join the club. “I treat everyone more or less the same. I think we have an environment where players feel comfortable being who they are, and there is no kind of hierarchy in the locker room of who this or who is … we try to create an environment where people can simply being who I am, who then goes to be seen on the pitch ”.

In fact, it’s the club environment – which Harvey notes is part of the Kingdom’s DNA from day one – that she believes attracts players to Seattle in the first place. “It’s something I’m really proud of that continues to this day, because I think it makes it easier for these bigger names to get involved.”

The transparent approach also comes with an honest reflection on performance. Harvey noted that with successful teams, you always have to strive to be better and better. And while OL Reign is in a decent position after nine games – fifth overall – the team’s lack of goal production was a consistent talking point.

Despite an average of 1.43 expected goals (xG) per game, the team only scored 0.78 goals per game. They are creating opportunities, but have not been able to finish them consistently. A push to be better means focusing on being more clinical at the door, something Heath and Little can deliver immediately and Huitema should be able to add in the long run.

“Tobin’s ability to create and finish chances adds something unique that I believe will help elevate our group,” Harvey stressed in the club’s press release announcing Heath’s arrival. Little, meanwhile, left the Kingdom in 2016 as the all-time top scorer in the NWSL with 32 goals and 16 assists after three seasons. He went on to score another 27 goals in 73 games for Arsenal.

Harvey noted at a recent press conference that constantly focusing on improvement means wondering if there are players who could help the club now or help develop young players for the future. Heath and Little can do a little of both, which is something that really excites the Reign manager.

“We have a young group. It’s probably the youngest group we’ve ever had at the Reign. Obviously, we have OGs, but then there’s kind of this OG group and then there’s probably a couple of them in their late 20s, and then they’re all really 25 and under, “Harvey added during an Equal Time conversation. Soccer last week with former Reign player Dani Foxhoven. “So I think bringing Kim, Tobin, people who know what it takes to be really successful, I think it’s going to be great for young players.”

Reign’s attack is particularly young. Bethany Balcer and Ally Watt are 25 years old, this being Watt’s first full season since recovering from an ACL tear. This year’s first round pick, Zsani Kaján, is 24 years old. Tziarra King is only 23, Angelina is only 22 and new signing Huitema is 21. Veronica Latsko is the oldest player on the front line apart from Megan Rapinoe and she is 26.

It’s a good time to welcome Heath and Little too. The club will be without eight players for the next three games, as Rapinoe, Rose Lavelle, Alana Cook, Sofia Huerta, Quinn, Huitema and Jimena Lopez will join their national teams for the Concacaf W Championship and Angelina will join Brazil for the Copa América Women. As the Kingdom, along with the rest of the league, faces significant international absences in July, it’s the perfect time to integrate some veteran players who may be able to push the team to improve before entering the second half of the season.

Can Harvey do it? Well, it just has to point to OL defender Sam Hiatt’s experience from last season to this year as proof.

“You know, I use Sam Hiatt a lot for this. When I joined last year, Sam Hiatt didn’t play a lot of minutes but he learned a lot from Alana [Cook] and Lu [Barnes] and all the other people who were playing, and now she’s a regular star for us. “

Hiatt is second on the squad for accurate passes per game, has won 67% of her duels and has been named to the provisional US roster of 59 players, a good indication that she will remain on Vlatko Andonovski’s radar if her strong performances continue. Bethany Balcer, who only had 1,210 minutes last year, already has seven starts and 628 minutes for the Kingdom in 2022.

Harvey hopes Hiatt isn’t the only example he’ll be able to highlight later this year and into the next season. He has yet to find the right players to present at the right time – and players have yet to get rid of the final curse they seem to have – but the Reign manager will have an abundance of riches to choose from when he does. Development isn’t always a straight line, and sometimes players just need a little extra nudge to get the best of it.

Leave a Comment