With the National Women's Soccer League championship game just days away on CBS, the league has started handing out end-of-year awards. On Tuesday, OL Reign manager Laura Harvey was named the 2021 NWSL Coach of the Year.
The list of finalists was decided after a preliminary round of voting by owners, general managers, coaches, players and media. Harvey was one of three finalists for the award along with Portland Thorns FC head coach Mark Parsons, and NJ/NY Gotham FC's Scott Parkinson.
Parsons earned second place in the voting, followed by Parkinson. The list of finalists was determined by a preliminary round of voting by owners, general managers, coaches, players and media. The finalists were then voted on by fans (10%), owners, general managers, coaches (20%), media (20%), and players (50%).
The English native made a return to the franchise in July after the departure of Farid Benstiti and is under contract through the 2023 season. Harvey took the reins of the club at the bottom half of the table and went 7-3-2, which was good enough to finish second in the league standings with a first-round playoff bye. The Reign came up short at home in the semifinals, losing 2-1 to the Washington Spirit.
In the midst of Harvey's seven wins in 12 games was an eight-game unbeaten run from Aug. 21 to Oct. 16. Under Harvey, OL Reign led all teams in goals (35) and assists (23) while outscoring opponents, 25-9.
Let's take a look at some of Harvey's impact in 2021:
Beating rivals at Lumen Fields
OL Reign and Portland Thorns FC took their Cascadia rivalry to Lumens Feild in Seattle, Washington back in August.
OL Reign produced a 2-1 victory over Portland Thorns FC, their longtime Cascadia rivals and eventual NWSL shield winners, sealing the head-to-head to series between them this year. Megan Rapinoe scored a brace in the win.
The second half of the season also served as a rotation shift for Harvey and the club, further showing her impact on a roster that featured international and domestic talent. One of Harvey's big moves was shifting forward Sofia Huerta into backline as a fullback, which paved the way for more players to be utilized in even more attacking areas on the pitch.
The move helped the club navigate a nagging injury to Rapinoe, and it push Eugiene Le Sommer and Bethany Balcer as prominent goal scorers in the final third. Harvey's moves also included veteran Lauren Barnes shifting into her preferred centerback position after being pushed out on the flank for a long stretch of the season, and it gave more consistency to the Reign's midfield with Quinn, Jess Fishlock, and Rose Lavelle all pulling the strings.
The league has three remaining individual awards to announce throughout the remainder of the week: Rookie of the Year, Goalkeeper of the Year and Most Valuable Player. Awards are expected to roll out in the build-up to the NWSL Championship on Nov. 20 on CBS.