[NWSL: Final]Englishwoman Laura Harvey was an easy choice for NWSL Coach of the Year, taking the Seattle Reign FC from a team that opened the 2013 season with 11 games without a win to a team that kicked off the 2014 campaign with seven straight wins and a 16-game unbeaten streak. The Reign heads into Sunday's final against FC Kansas City as the favorite to win the league title (live on ESPN2 at 3 p.m. ET).
Some pieces were already in Seattle -- notably, U.S. national team stars Megan Rapinoe and Hope Solo, who weren't available for the 2013 start -- but Harvey, who also took on GM responsibilities days before the 2013 season began, brought in three players who earned Best XI honors -- defender Kendall Fletcher, Scottish midfielder Kim Little and Japanese forward Nahomi Kawasumi -- as well as U.S. star Sydney Leroux, a Second XI pick.
One constant has been Welsh star Jess Fishlock, one of four repeat selections on the NWSL Best XI team.
"We've got points this season surely because every single one of us will work as hard as we can to make sure Laura's successful," Fishlock said in a media conference call earlier in the week. "When you have a coach that has that kind of effect on you, not just individually, but as a group, then you know that person is special and that is absolutely what Laura is."
The Reign beat FC Kansas City, 3-2, on goals by Fletcher, Little and captainKeelin Winters in their first meeting this season, but the last two games have ended in 1-1 ties, and Fishlock expects a close game on Sunday at Starfire Stadium.
"I think it's the right final," she said. "You've got the two teams that finished first and second and were most consistent throughout the league. The games we've had against each other have all been really exciting and I think that will be exactly the same on Sunday. It will literally be a case of the best team on the day will win because I don't think there's much between us at all."