NWSL: Utah lands Craig Harrington as coach; Ali Riley heading to Orlando

NWSL Ali Riley
Photo of Ali Riley of the Orlando Pride courtesy of Mark Thor/Orlando Pride.

Sandy, Utah — All of the head coaching vacancies in the National Women’s Soccer League have officially been filled. Last Friday, the Utah Royals FC announced the hiring of Craig Harrington as the club’s second-ever head coach. Harrington comes from Chicago, where he served as an assistant coach under longtime NWSL coach Rory Dames.

He featured as an assistant coach for two years in Chicago, where the Red Stars produced a 23-12-13 record. Last year, the Red Stars made their first-ever NWSL Championship appearance, but fell to the North Carolina Courage. Harrington has been to two NWSL playoffs with the Red Stars.

“I enjoyed my time in Chicago and the run to the championship game but making the move to Utah Royals FC was an easy decision for one key reason: potential,” Harrington said, via a press release. “The ambition of the club, combined with the hunger and talent of the players, is a powerful mix. I am passionate about success and I am ready to bring that mentality to the Royals, every day.”

Harrington is replacing Laura Harvey as the Royals head coach. In January, Harvey stepped down as the club’s manager, just a few days before the NWSL College Draft. Harvey has since taken a job with U.S. Soccer and is coaching the U-20 team.

In the last two seasons, the Royals have failed to make the NWSL Playoffs. Many players on the Royals came from the dissolved FC Kansas City, who won two NWSL Championship titles.

Harrington’s staff includes assistant coach Amy LePeilbet and goalkeeper coach Jason Batty. LePeilbet is also the head coach of the Utah Royals Reserves, who feature in the WPSL. Meanwhile, Scott Parkinson, who was a candidate for the job, is now a member of the Red Stars coaching staff.

What will the Royals look like in the 2020 NWSL season? 

Stephanie Lee, the Royals general manager, said that Harrington is someone who understands the competitive level of the NWSL. She hopes that he will “build upon the Royals established principles and style of play.”

“We selected Craig because he not only demonstrated his knowledge of both those elements, but because he believes in building a holistic vision and plan of what we want the Royals to look like and build upon, creating a true organizational identity that aligns with Dell Loy’s vision of globally & locally progressing women’s football,” Lee said.

Prior to coaching in the NWSL, Harrington served as a coach for the LA Galaxy Academy in 2010, getting his coaching start. He was part of the U-16 team, serving as head coach. There, he led the Galaxy U-16 team to consecutive U.S. Soccer Development SoCal Division titles.

He received a promotion in 2011, as he joined the Galaxy senior team’s technical staff. Harrington was part of the technical staff when the Galaxy won two consecutive MLS Cup Championship titles. Meanwhile, he also served as the technical director and head coach of the Turks and Caicos Men’s National Team.

Harrington wasn’t in charge when the NWSL Draft commenced. However, it was Scott Parkinson who helped draft for the Royals. In the draft, Utah selected Tziarra King, a standout striker from North Carolina State. Also selected were Kate Del Fava, a midfielder from the Illinois State University, and Cyera Hintzen, a forward from Texas.

Ali Riley signs NWSL contract with Orlando Pride

Allocation money has been used around the league to retain players and find some new talent overseas, as well. The Orlando Pride dipped into allocation money to sign a new defender for their corps: Ali Riley.

The New Zealand international hails originally from California. She began her career in the United States with FC Gold Pride of the former WPS. There, she was teammates with Brazilian legend, and Pride forward, Marta. Riley said that she chatted with the Brazilian about Orlando, which led to her signing.

“I think all around — this league, this country, the interest of the women’s game and the growth of this sport, the attention from the media and the fans — it’s something I want to be a part of,” Riley said. “I hope both the mentality and attitude I bring, but also the technical ability and the learnings I’ve had playing at some of the best teams in the world, will help bring a little more confidence and a little bit of something different to contribute to a better season this year.”

Riley is coming to Orlando from FC Bayern Munich. There, she made three appearances in the Frauen Bundesliga. Before going to Germany, she made nine appearances for Chelsea FC Women. However, she recorded over 100 appearances in Sweden, featuring for FC Rosengård from 2012-18. She also featured with Marta in Sweden.

“From an on-field standpoint, Ali solidifies and improves our backline heading into 2020, which was a key area of improvement for us this offseason,” Erik Ustruck, Pride general manager, said. “She provides many things we are looking to add to the team: experience, both domestically and internationally, additional energy to our outside back position and is a perfect fit to the culture we’ve worked to establish over the last year.”

Riley is the captain of the New Zealand women’s national team. She has gone to four FIFA Women’s World Cup tournaments and has been part of three Olympic Games. Riley has made 132 appearances for New Zealand. She made her international debut on Feb. 6, 2007.

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