(Image courtesy of NJ/NY Gotham FC)
Delayed three hours because of intense rainstorms that sidelined most other NYC/NJ sporting events that evening, the Gotham FC/Kansas City game finally got underway at around 10pm on Saturday evening. It was the first game ever between Gotham and the Kansas City expansion side. Though Gotham led early, a late concession once again forced Gotham to settle for one point instead of three.
Ifeoma Onumonu provided the scoring for Gotham with a powerful strike in the 30th minute of the game following a beautiful set of combination passes that saw the ball go through the midfield from one side of the field to the other before Onumonu’s shot. Jennifer Cudjoe passed the ball to Imani Dorsey on the left flank, who fed it back to Allie Long. Long played McCall Zerboni, who had checked towards her. She then sent it over to Gina Lewandowski, who launched the ball wide on the right flank to Nahomi Kawasumi. Kawasumi took one touch to settle the ball and passed it on the ground to Onumonu, who turned with her right foot and her back to the goal, and shot the ball with her left, sending it low and hard, on the ground, skipping into the lower left corner.
ADMIRE THE FILTH!! pic.twitter.com/PinZrPHEIl— Diaspora United (@DiasporaUtdPod) July 3, 2021
Gotham held strong until the 83rd minute, when Mariana Larroquette intercepted an errant back pass and, after taking one long touch, sent the ball flying over the head of back-up, back-up goalkeeper, Amanda McGlynn. (McGlynn was making her NWSL debut after Didi Haracic exited following a collision at the end of the first half.) Gotham had a few chances at the end of the game, including three corner kicks in the 90th minute and stoppage time, but couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net for the win. Kansas City, who has lost their past five games, got to leave Harrison with a point, and Gotham will return to the drawing board to figure out how to close out games.
As has been true in the past few games, Gotham’s midfield looked strong. Allie Long, in the holding 6 role, has been excellent, controlling the pace of play and taking meaningful touches to switch the field and maintain possession. In the defensive third, her positioning is excellent and she reads the game with remarkable accuracy. Jennifer Cudjoe and McCall Zerboni, in more attacking midfield roles also did nice work to distribute the ball, and Cudjoe particularly helped instigate a number of attacking runs.
Midge Purce continues to put pressure on opposing teams’ defenses, especially when the ball is at her feet and she is taking on a player one v. one. She played beautiful passes through the defense all night that created chances for her teammates. Many people feel that she was snubbed by the US Women’s National Team and it does seem like she’s on the brink of exploding in terms of both goals and assists.
Meanwhile, Ifeoma is exploding. She has proved to be incredibly dangerous in the box, and creates chances for herself even when surrounded by defenders. When Onumonu was subbed out for Elizabeth Eddy, the change was noticeable. (I say this as a big fan of Eddy’s; and in her defense, it’s hard to wait on the bench for 3+ hours and then 81 minutes of a game.) Eddy got cute in the box, trying to pass with a no-look back flick, stalling what would have been a decent scoring chance that, based on her play, Onumonu might have done something more with.
Imani Dorsey has looked great getting forward and bringing the ball up the flank. She’s an incredibly dynamic player at both ends of the field. However in this game, players on her side of the field (the goal scorer, Mariana Larroquette, as well as Lo’eau LaBonta) gave Gotham trouble all game. The goal itself resulted from a misplay on a backpass from Dorsey to Estelle Johnson, who didn’t check to the ball. Though the Gotham defense has generally been excellent, this moment (perhaps exacerbated by the long delay before the game and the ensuing fatigue) highlighted what has been the occasional misstep of Gotham’s back line — an errant single touch that results in a costly giveaway, or a single moment of indecision about whether to check to a ball or stay in position. Gotham’s back four, whatever the configuration, will surely want to tighten up on these miscues as the season continues.
Saturday was Gotham’s Disco Pride Game. Though some fans left rather than wait out the rain, many of them stayed and brought the party. (See this particularly impressive tifo and stellar tailgating work from @cloud9GOTH.) Word at the arena was that players and staff were asked to suggest songs for the playlist. And I have to ask: which players? Which staff? Which songs?!
Looking forward, Gotham FC seems particularly well-positioned to weather the loss of players to their various national teams for the Olympics. Carli Lloyd is playing for the United States, and Kailen Sheridan and Évelyne Viens will be playing for Canada. Though Sheridan has been outstanding for Gotham in the net, when she was injured during the challenge cup, Didi Haracic (who is also a very talented photographer!) stepped up admirably. Assuming Haracic was not badly injured during this game against Kansas City, she should be able to pick up right where she left off, providing a powerful and unflappable last line of defense for Gotham. And although Lloyd and Viens both add skills to the frontline, Gotham’s most effective forwards (Midge Purce and Iffy Onumonu) will not be going to the Olympics. Gotham’s backline will also stay intact, except for whatever losses come by way of injury. Other teams (Orlando, Houston, Portland, and North Carolina in particular) are losing players whose absence will perhaps create more of a drop in play.
But at the end of the day, however well positioned Gotham may be on paper, the team needs to figure out how to score more than one goal a game, and how to hold onto a lead in the waning minutes of the game.
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