Gotham v Red Stars, Sunday, July 25, 2021
On Sunday afternoon, NJ/NY Gotham FC beat the Chicago Red Stars (who had won their last three games) 2-1, with goals by Allie Long (her first of the season) and Margaret Purce. With their second win in as many games, Gotham (at 5-1-4, with 19 points) moved into second place in the NWSL standings. They have lost only one time in the last ten games (to the Portland Thorns at the end of May).
During the first half, Gotham looked sharp. Gaëtane Thiney particularly stood out for pressuring the Chicago Red Stars defense both when the ball was at their feet and at her own, and creating great opportunities for herself and her teammates. The first great scoring chance Gotham had came less than a minute and a half into the game. Thiney dribbled the ball up the field and passed to Nahomi Kawasumi. Kawasumi fed the ball on to McCall Zerboni who flicked the ball inside to Thiney, who then passed it to Ifeoma Onumonu. Onumonu seemed to have an open look at the goal on the six yard line. She went for the far post but it went just wide.
Though this was a great scoring chance for Gotham, it proved to be one of Onumonu’s only good looks on goal. Though she’s been a real offensive threat in many of Gotham’s matches (and leads the team in overall points with three goals and two assists), she was marked out of the match by the excellent defensive play of Sarah Gorden.
Gotham and the Red Stars played even for much of the first half. Gotham had the majority of possessions (69% to Chicago’s 31% at the half), but couldn’t find a way to break the Red Star’s defensive line. But in the 44th minute, when Tatumn Milazzo went down with an injury, the Red Stars decided to finish out the half shorthanded, rather than substitute her out, and Gotham was able to take advantage. In the third minute of stoppage time, Imani Dorsey passed the ball to Allie Long in the center of the field, who found Caprice Dydasko on the right side. Dydasko sent a beautiful cross into the box that was one-touched perfectly by Allie Long into the back of the net. It was Long’s first goal of the season and Dydasko’s third assist, which leads the team.
Although Gotham scored first in the second half, it was the Red Stars who came out energized after the break. Gotham looked more flatfooted. The Red Stars had more dangerous possessions and more shots. Gotham Coach Freya Coombe waited until the 78th minute to make any substitutions until finally bringing in Domi Richardson for Gaëtane Thiney and Delani Sheehan for Nahomi Kawasumi. I wonder whether substitutions earlier might have helped Gotham match the Red Stars’ intensity after the half, especially because Red Stars brought in three substitutes to start the second 45.
Gotham’s defense held strong in the second half, even under the increased pressure. Estelle Johnson continued her stellar play as a center defender. Her tackles are particularly on point. Over the course of the season, anyone watching the NWSL has seen players whistled for fouls in the box when they’ve missed on their tackles and gotten the body instead of the ball. Estelle Johnson does not miss.
In the 70th minute, Margaret Purce won a penalty kick after being pulled down in the box and made the most of the opportunity, shooting the ball into the lower left corner of the goal.
Chicago got a goal back off a shot by Makenzy Doniak in the 6th minute of stoppage time, but it was too late to build a rally and with the match ending seconds later, Gotham got the win.
And, in a note about the reffing: in the 94th minute, Briana Pinto, who had subbed in for Onumonu two minutes earlier, drew a foul on Bianca St. Georges about 25 yards from goal. St. Georges was given a red card for the foul, which was deemed a denial of a clear goal-scoring opportunity. While St. Georges clearly committed a foul on Pinto, in my eyes the Red Card felt questionable. Given that the NWSL independent review board has recently rescinded two red cards (one against Sam Staab that was issued during last week’s game between the Washington Spirit and NY/NJ Gotham FC, and one against OL Reign’s goalkeeper, Sarah Bouhaddi, who had received it in a match against Kansas City), I wonder if the NWSL Independent Review Board needs to review not just the red cards themselves, but the referees, and the frequency with which referees are assigning them.
The game was Gotham Captain McCall Zerboni’s 150th NWSL cap. She is auctioning off her jersey with the proceeds going to Nourish NJ, an organization that addresses the challenges of hunger, housing scarcity, and poverty.
Gotham next plays on August 1 against the Houston Dash. And as for Gotham’s players who are on national team duties at the Olympics, Canada (with Evelyne Viens and Kailyn Sheridan) is advancing to the knockout round, after finishing second in Group E. And in Group G, the United States (with Carli Lloyd) will advance as well, after playing to a scoreless draw against Australia early on Tuesday morning (US time).
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