Fans at the Gotham FC NWSL Championship match
Fans at the Gotham FC NWSL Championship match

Packed Championship Watch Parties A Catharsis for Local Gotham FC Fans

On Saturday, November 11th, fans gathered at bars and watch parties around the city to cheer on NJ/NY Gotham FC as they faced OL Reign in the 2023 National Women’s Soccer League Championship match. Gotham ultimately won 2-1 and brought home its first-ever Championship.

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“I haven’t seen our bar this crowded since St. Patrick’s Day!” That was the sentiment of an employee at Paddy’s of Park Slope on Saturday night as he turned people away at the door an hour before Gotham FC kicked off its first-ever NWSL Championship game.

Fans quickly filtered into nearby bars including Ginger’s Bar, The Monro Pub, The Black Horse Pub, and Prospect Bar and Grill, each turning on the game for rabid fans eager to watch Gotham bring home an elusive NWSL trophy.

Wall-to-wall fans were given the experience of a lifetime, as Gotham put on a finals-worthy performance. With goals from Lynn Williams and Esther González, both assisted by eventual MVP winner Midge Purce, Gotham faithfuls who were unable to make the cross-country trek to San Diego for the game got to revel together in a fairytale ending for the club.

“Getting across the country to San Diego was obviously very hard even for a lot of hardcore Gotham fans, so it was great to be able to hang out with a huge bunch of them in Brooklyn,” said NWSL fan Ashna Guliani. “As a neutral, they definitely turned me into a Gotham fan for the day.”

For freshly minted Gotham fan Amanda Westlake, who moved to the city this summer, attending Gotham games with a new community of friends has become a highlight of her week. Being able to spend Saturday night with a group of like-minded fans, which included women and queer folks from all around the five boroughs, was a thrilling experience.

“The energy at the watch party was electric, and I was so happy to be there with my friends, other Gotham supporters, and fellow Ali Krieger fans to celebrate such a historic moment,” Westlake said. “There were stressful moments throughout the game, especially at the end, but I always believed we would win.”

In stoppage time, the unthinkable happened. Gotham FC goalkeeper Mandy Haught was caught handling the ball outside of the box and denying Reign a goal scoring opportunity. Fans held their breath while the center referee reviewed VAR footage, ultimately giving Haught the red card, and Gotham was out of substitutions.

As Haught left the pitch, midfielder Nealy Martin donned the goalkeeper uniform for the second time this season. With U.S. women’s national team star Rose Lavelle over the ball, the bar was silent. Lavelle lined up and kicked the ball – directly into the Gotham wall – and the bar erupted into deafening cheers.

“Being in a room full of fellow Gotham fans [during these moments] was honesty incredible,” said Gotham season ticket holder Amanda Urrego. “The entire evening was electric, emotions were high with every goal and every movement on the pitch. We were all shouting as if our energy, screaming and banging would help fuel them from thousands of miles away.”

In particular, every shot on television of Gotham FC captain Ali Krieger, who announced her retirement earlier this season, received raucous applause and cheers from the bar. From the moment she took the field, to every touch on the ball, to her trophy lift, her fans back home were quite literally chanting her name.

“Gotham’s championship win is the kind of sports story you usually see in movies,” said Westlake. “The fact that the team did it all for Ali Krieger, to end her legendary career, is incredibly poetic. She deserves it so much. It’s impossible to see the way the players love and support one another and not want them to win.”

After a disappointing last place finish in 2022, coming together with fellow fans from around the city was a cathartic moment for longtime Gotham supporters.

“To see your home team literally go from last place one season to winning the championship sounds scripted but it actually happened in real life – we did it,” Urrego said. “Who doesn’t love an underdog story, and a New York team at that?”

Now, Gotham will have to build on their fairytale ending and continue to grow both on the field and off. As attendance numbers soar throughout the league, Gotham sits in seventh in overall attendance in the league drawing an average of 6,293 fans per match. The new NWSL Champions, located in one of the league’s biggest markets, will surely hope to seize on this momentum to fill Red Bull Arena in 2024.

“It’s incredibly exciting to see our community continue to grow,” Jonna Valente, Gotham FC’s SVP of Marketing and Brand told The Local W. “The growth is a reflection of the team’s exciting performance on the field and the dedication of our front office team on building community, and on a deeper level, creating a space where all people feel like they belong. Our hope is fans felt that way coming to games and watch parties this season and we are looking forward to welcoming them back in 2024.”

Gotham supporters around the area are certainly hoping for a continued upward trajectory for the team both on and off the field. In fact, many are already locked in and ready to start cheering on the new champions in the 2024 season.

“I hope the Gotham fanbase only continues to grow,” said Westlake. “I’ll be counting down the days until the next season starts.

Gotham FC wins 2023 NWSL Championship