How they got here
For the first time since 2009 the New Jersey/New York Gotham Football Club will be playing in a final. Gotham will face off against a dominant Portland Thorns side, who come in to the Challenge Cup Final with a record of 3-0-1. The additional bad news for Gotham fans is that the final will take place at Providence Park, the home of the Thorns.
The newly minted NJ/NY Gotham FC (formerly Sky Blue FC), will look back into history and hope to have the same result as 2009 when they won the Women’s Pro Soccer League. In the inaugural Challenge Cup last year, Gotham bowed out in the semifinals to the eventual runners up, the Chicago Red Stars.
Gotham made their way to the final by finishing top of their group with a 2-2-0 record. The team started the Challenge Cup off on fire outscoring their first two opponents, 5-3 before losing the scoring touch and tying their last two group games 0-0.
Gotham’s run has been powered by two players in the top five of the NWSL scoring charts with forward Midge Purce ranked second in goals scored with two and forward Ifeoma Onomonu in second with two assists. Purce and Onomonu are also joined in the leaderboards by goalie Didi Haracic who ranks third in saves with fifteen. Gotham FC finished the group stage with a goal differential of plus two, good for second in the Challenge Cup (ranking behind only behind their opponents in this game, the Thorns who have a plus four goal differential).
Player to watch: Carli Lloyd
Big time players step up in big time games, and Challenge Cup final is the biggest test for these sides until the playoffs begin in the fall. With that in mind, one figure looms perhaps larger than the rest in Saturday’s final, USWNT legend Carli Lloyd. Lloyd has one goal this preseason on 10 shots, and over the course of her career she has three goals in four playoff games. That includes being the first US Women’s National team player to score in a Champions League Semi-Final. Look for Lloyd to provide at least one magical moment to propel Gotham FC to victory.
Prediction: 2-1 (5-4) Gotham wins
Image Credit: Elsa/Getty Images