SANDY — As reports have swirled that Utah Royals FC head coach Laura Harvey is on the short list to become the next head coach of the United States Women’s National Team, she was asked in her postgame press conference following URFC’s 2-1 win over the Houston Dash in their season finale Saturday night at Rio Tinto Stadium if she envisions being back in Utah next year.
In typical Harvey fashion, she was straightforward in addressing the subject.
“Well, I won’t be the Women’s National Team coach, I can say that,” she said.
Harvey initially did not address her future broadly, but in an uncommon occurrence, she returned to the media room about 30 minutes after her press conference and told assembled media her plan is to return to Utah next season.
Last week, The Equalizer’s Jeff Kassouf reported that Harvey and Washington-based Reign FC head coach Vlatko Andonovski were two finalists for the position. Andonovski succeeded Harvey as head coach of the Reign prior to the 2018 season.
While Harvey’s comments were certainly the most newsworthy item of the night, URFC played its best game in a long time on Saturday. Eliminated from playoff contention two weeks ago, URFC was in full attack mode for most of the night en route to the victory.
Christen Press scored in the third minute, Amy Rodriguez found the net 20 minutes later and URFC dominated statistically. It finished with a whopping 22 total shots compared to seven for the Dash, and had a 7-3 advantage in shots on target.
“I said to the players at the end, I think that sums up our season, actually,” Harvey said. “I thought we were brave first half. I think it’s some of the best football we’ve played all season, if not for a long time. We just completely controlled the game.”
Houston did start attacking more in the final 25 minutes or so and ruined an otherwise tremendous performance from URFC when Kristie Mewis scored in the 78th minute.
URFC wound up finishing sixth in the NWSL table, down a spot from last season. It and the D.C.-based Washington Spirit both finished with 34 points, but the Spirit won a tiebreaker.
Midfielder Lo’eau LaBonta said the success Saturday had a lot to do with how the team trained over the last two weeks as the National Women’s Soccer League observed a FIFA break. In the same thought, however, she couldn’t ignore the fact it was too little, too late, as URFC finished four points outside of the playoffs after finishing just two points out in its inaugural campaign in 2018.
“It’s just unfortunate we did it the last two weeks of the season, but it’s a great note to end off on because we know we can do it,” she said. “I think that’s the most frustrating part of our season, is knowing that we could have done it. We could have made it to playoffs. We are really good at times. Ending on a good note is great leading into the next season and just building off of this. 100 percent, it’s so bittersweet. Very, very frustrating because we know we can do it.”
Rodriguez, who finished 2019 as URFC’s leader in goals scored with nine (tied for third in the NWSL with two others), echoed that sentiment.
“I’m grateful to have this opportunity to play for the Royals and to help lead my team and scoring goals, yes, I’m very thankful and grateful for that, but I do feel like I’m leaving this season with a little bit of a bad taste in my mouth just because we didn’t make the playoffs,” she said.
As far as the playoffs are concerned, the defending champion and Shield-winning North Carolina Courage will face the Reign in the first round at home, while the Chicago Red Stars and Portland Thorns will play in the Windy City as the second- and third-place teams.
Those games will be played next Sunday afternoon.