Gotham FC Earns 1-0 Win Over Washington Spirit in Challenge Cup
On a cool evening in Harrison, New Jersey, NJ/NY Gotham FC managed a 1-0 win in their inaugural Challenge Cup match over the 2021 National Women’s Soccer League Champions the Washington Spirit. With a goal from Lynn Williams, the club notched their first win on home soil in 2023 and was the only team to earn a victory in the Challenge Cup’s East conference on Saturday night.
Gotham manager Juan Carlos Amorós featured a rotated squad for the team’s second match of a three-game week. Sinead Farrelly, Ellie Jean, McCall Zerboni, and Taylor Smith all saw starts. Goalkeeper Mandy Haught also earned a start, her second ever team appearance since returning from a season abroad last year.
“It was just electric,” said Haught after the game. “I had the best time out there. The team did great and we couldn’t get this win without everyone. It was an amazing feeling to be out in the starting XI. It was well deserved, the team earned [a clean sheet]. We worked really hard for it. I’m super stoked I could do my job back there for the team.”
A major engine of the night’s win came from defender Ellie Jean who shed her usual fullback role to put in a full 90 as a center back. Her performance earned her Player of the Match honors, but Jean credited the full squad for the victory.
“It took everyone,” Jean said. “It took all 26 of us this evening. Players who were rostered, players who weren’t. We worked really hard the last couple of weeks. It takes everyone, so I’m honored but everyone was a help tonight.”
Early Chances, No Goals
Gotham indeed put on a full team performance against the Spirit. Ifeoma Onumonu would have the first chance of the night in the 2nd minute taking a shot just inside the box that was saved by Spirit keeper Aubrey Kingsbury. Just moments later in the 5th minute, Svava Ros Guðmundsdóttir would fire a shot from the top of the box that went wide.
In the 8th minute, the Spirit saw their first look on goal with a shot from Civana Kuhlmann that rolled right into the arms of Haught.
In the 37th minute, Gotham saw another promising chance with a ball from Kristie Mewis sent to Williams who took a shot from outside the box. The ball was easily collected by Kingsbury.
The Spirit would have two chances coming in stoppage time of the first half, and immediately in the second half. Although the first attempt went wide, the second attempt in the 47th minute forced Haught to block the ball sending it out for Spirit corner.
Mewis and Williams would eventually get their assist and goal combo in the 56th minute. After some technical brilliance by Bruninha and Farrelly down the far side, Williams received the ball near the penalty spot. Surrounded by defenders, she passed the ball to Kristie Mewis who was only a few feet away from Williams. Mewis, who believed Williams had the better opportunity to shoot, passed the ball back to Williams who slotted it past the keeper to earn the only goal of the evening.
“I just wanted to position myself in between the posts and the frame of the goal. I let [Onumonu] and Sinead [Farrelly] and Kristie [Mewis] do their thing out on the wide. When I got the ball I thought Kristie had a better opening, she thought I had a better opening. So there was a little bit of ticky tacky there,” Williams said on her goal. “We play 5v5 every single day in training so it’s working in tight spaces. It’s not just to shoot and panic. It’s to stay clam and find and opening, and that’s what we did. You don’t have to blast all the time you can just place it. So I got my feet right and put it far corner.”
Williams was grateful for the win, but after the game noted that there are continued areas of improvement for the team. “I feel like any time you’re winning it’s awesome. I still feel like we have a lot of room to grow,” Williams said. “The first half was a bit sloppy and obviously we’re not excited about that, but when you’re winning and learning it’s definitely a better feeling than when you’re losing and learning. I’m really proud of the group.”
Gotham indeed had a much stronger second half with near misses or saved shots coming from Allie Long, Zerboni, and Onumonu. Midge Purce and Smith were crucial to the build up play in the second half while Zerboni and Jean did strong work to break up the flow of the Spirit in midfield and on the back line. The team would see the game out and secure the 1-0 win.
“I’m just really happy for the team,” Zerboni said after the match. “We have such a good foundation of what we’re trying to do this year, an identity that we’re all really bought into, and we have so much depth. Anyone can be in there on any day and we’re going to have a strong line up. I’m just really proud to be a Gotham player.”
Full highlights are available below:
Gotham returns for their next regular season match at home against North Carolina Courage on Saturday, April 22nd at 7:30PM. Visit GothamFC.com for more information.